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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.