9.22.2011

Saving Money in Med School: Meal Planning + Weekly Process

Time for another "Saving Money in Medical School" post!  If you missed the other posts, you can catch up here: Coupons 101, General Money Saving Websites, Daily Deals and Being Price Conscious

Meal Planning
I’ve found that planning out a week’s worth of meals really helps me to save not only money at the store, but also time!  (It might be my biggest pet peeve to sit around saying, "What do you want for dinner?"  "I don't know, what do YOU want for dinner?" ...repeat x 20).  Each week, I simply sit down with my compiled recipe book and the weekly ad from the grocery store, beg the Hubby for at least one dinner suggestion, and list off the meals that I’ll make in the following days.  Each week, I aim for two things: 1)to try at least one new recipe and 2)to have at least one “meatless” night, since meat eats up a big part of a grocery budget.  As long as the meal is still hearty and has protein (normally from beans!), the Hubby doesn’t even notice (okay, maybe he notices.  But he doesn't mind!).  Enchiladas with refried beans, ravioli with spinach and goat cheese, soups filled with veggies and lentils, stuffed peppers with beans and rice...they're all delicious with or without meat, so it's easy to get away with "forgetting" to put in the meat ;)     

After I’ve made my meal plan, I can check my pantry and freezer to see what I have on hand (it’s so nice to have a little stash of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta, beans, frozen chicken, etc. so that you aren’t buying one portion of every item every week.  When they’re on sale next, stock up on the staples to have some on hand!).  Whatever dry goods and fresh produce that I still need for the recipes, I can then add to my shopping list (which may or may not be in an Excel spreadsheet in grocery store aisle order.  Yes, I am aware that I am a freak-o-nature).

Weekly Process
Each week on Sunday, I’ll go through my coupons and pull out any that are expiring within the next week to see if there was anything that I needed/wanted to buy using those coupons.  Then I’ll clip the coupons that I’ll use out of the inserts from the newspaper and check the online sites to print the ones I’ll need (this is explained in much more depth in the first post about coupons).  Once my coupons are in order, I go through the store ads to see what is on sale (and check those general money saving websites for their store match-ups!).  My weekly meal plan is normally based around those sale items.  When I’ve got all of my meals set, I make my grocery list! 

It seems like a lot of work – I know.  But being able to save an average of $45 a week, without doing anything "extreme" by any means…that’s over $2300 a year!  Definitely worth the little bit of extra effort, I’d say!  What would you do with an extra $2300 a year?  Take out a few less medical school loans, perhaps??

This might look overwhelming typed out like this, but I promise it will be second nature to you once you start. If you have any questions or need some encouragement shoot me an email at mdschoolmrs[at]gmail[dot]com!

3 comments:

  1. I am so loving the saving money in med school posts. Mostly because while we did okay during med school because I worked full time and he was getting officer's pay in the Army, we are definitely pinching pennies now during intern year since I don't have a job and... well... yea, it's tight. These have been super helpful. Thanks!

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  2. I'm so glad you are finding them helpful Lauren. For real. Because they haven't really been commented on too frequently, and I was beginning to wonder if everyone was saying "Seriously? Another money saving post? You've GOT to be kidding me!"

    So thanks ;)

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  3. Smart to plan your meals based on sale items - I need to remember to get back to that. I also try to be good about planning meals around the random things left behind in the freezer or pantry, to use those up...

    I do try to plan a week's worth of meals though partly because thinking of what to make is worse than having to cook it - ha! And it does seem to save time (on top of $) to just sit down once and plan it out. But in residency I'm finding I have to be much more flexible because there can be several nights a week that dr. hubby doesn't show up till really late, so sometimes some last minute meal shuffling is required (especially if the original plan was for him to grill something!). I'm now working on a list of meals that keep well on the stovetop - so that if I'm still home alone at 7 and starving, I can eat and save the rest for him for later....

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