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Meal planning has turned into something I am not sure how I lived without. It takes a little time to get it just right for your family and budget, but it is worth the small time investment. Doing a little work ahead of time definitely saves us money, and I think in the end, it absolutely saves time.
A few minutes spent writing down a list doesn’t compared to how much time I used to waste searching for something to make each night, only to find that I was missing that one important ingredient. I would either have to improvise or start my search all over again. Enough was enough.
If you are thinking about trying it, here are a few strategies I have found that make my meal planning more successful:
Think about what you have- This week I had a little bit of spaghetti sauce left over in the fridge. The perfect amount to use for pizzas next week, so it goes on my list.
Always be on the look out- If I’m playing around on Pinterest at night and find a great recipe, I add it to my menu if it is fitting for that week or file it for later. I find that it makes it much easier if I add a couple recipes through out the week.
Consult the sales papers- I always start with the grocery ads to see what is on sale. Of course, just because chicken is on sale doesn’t mean we are going to eat it for 5 meals. But, if pork chops are on sale buy one get one, I know I need to make a pork meal and can put the other pack in freezer for a little stockpile.
Have a plan- When I first started meal planning, I was a little overwhelmed with the blank slate. So I came up with a guideline for certain days of the week. This gave me an idea of what kind of recipes I needed. So, each week, I know Sunday is a slow- cooker meal, Monday is Meatless (another way we save money) and Saturday is a kid friendly meal.
Shop discount stores- We try to eat some kind of seafood each week. It honestly isn’t my favorite sometimes, but we are trying to get our son used to eating a variety of food. The only way we can afford to do that each week is by purchasing it at Aldi. I have been very pleased with the prices and options they have on their flash frozen seafood. Which is usually the best option unless you live closer to the ocean than we do.
Sam’s Club is a great place to buy chicken breast if it isn’t on sale at your local grocery store.
Be flexible- So you are planning to use ground beef and you get to the grocery store only to find ground turkey in the discount section. Looks like it is a turkey burger night to me!
Make meal plans reusable- When I’m doing a meal plan I list out every ingredient that is listed in the recipe, even if it is something I have. I slip my grocery list into a plastic sleeve and mark off what I have with a dry erase marker. I keep up with the thing I am buying at the store the same way, crossing it off as I go. When I have everything on my list, I can wipe off the list and file the paper. That way if something ever happens and we are having a busy week or I am sick, we can easily go back to a weekly meal plan and the list will be ready.
I hope this has given you a little more confidence to try this for yourself. If you are still needing a little inspiration, you are in luck! I will be sharing my weekly meal plans with you each Sunday.
Cassie @ Southeast by Midwest
I LOVE meal planning, as you know, and I really love that graphic. Can’t wait to see more in this series 🙂
I know Cassie, I should have mentioned you are my inspiration.
Great tips! I love menu planning. It saves so much time and money!
So far my meal planning has consisted of buying a large flat of chicken and lots of steamer bags of veggies. But that gets soo boring. Thank you for the tips, I will put them to good use!
I understand, Jessica. I hope you will find them helpful. I will start sharing some recipes next week so maybe that will be even more help.
Thanks for all the great tips! I love the idea of a meatless Monday.
Thanks, Mariely, it does make me feel a little healthier doing meatless Mondays and it cuts down on the grocery bill a little.
I wish I could consistently meal plan! Even with my printable, I write it out but then the day of, Cody is like “Nah, let’s eat such and such” so I change it lol
I completely understand Paige, it happens. Sometimes we decide to go out or do something different too, and then I just move that meal to the next night. Can’t wait to share your printable next week with my first meal plan.
Christine @ More Than Mommies
I definitely couldn’t live without my menu plan. You’ve come up with a nice little primer for anyone considering meal planning for the first time. Great job!
Thank you so much, Christine. I don’t think I could ever go back to not doing it.
Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground
Oh, this is so something I’m trying to get better at, Brenna! I’ll be peeking at your upcoming tips!! 🙂
Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground
I hope you find it helpful, Tracey.
Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families
I haven’t tried meal planning and not sure how well it would work for me and my family.
Christy, I will be sharing some of my meal plans starting next week. Then maybe you will be able to get a better idea of if it would work for you.
These are seriously such great tips! I need to be better about meal planning; especially because we are going to try and go gluten free for a month (per doctor’s instructions) and I know I won’t be able to do it if I don’t plan out my menus!
I hope they help, Katie. My sister eats gluten free, so I know how difficult it can be. I keep trying to talk her into starting a blog, so she can share more about it. I will warn you though I have heard that packaged gluten- free stuff isn’t very good for you sometimes. But, I know you like to make stuff homemade any way, so you should be fine.
Ugh, I am so bad about meal planning right now. WHEN I meal plan I do much of what you already suggested, especially the use up what you already have. I really need to meal plan again. I’ve been eating like the save five meals over and over again… Have I mentioned I’m not much of a cook?
Great tips! I just started meal planning and it was intimidating but honestly it gets easier. The time spent to learn and apply is worth it. We also shop at Aldi and it’s awesome! I make a two week meal plan, purchase all my ingredients for under $200 and usually have leftovers for a third week 🙂
Thanks for sharing on Strut Your Stuff Saturday! I am a new follower now!
Thank you so much, Jacy, glad to have you as a follower. I just did the same thing, didn’t have to go grocery shopping at all last week because I had reserve meals.
Love the dry erase list idea. Wish we had an Aldi!
These are great tips! I especially need to start taking inventory of my fridge before I plan for the week so that I stop wasting so much. Thank you!