Something I’ve seen a lot of moms asking about on social media recently is meal planning!
For some reason, meal planning seems to cause tons of anxiety for women! If that’s you, don’t worry, I used to feel the same way! Meal planning is still one of my most dreaded tasks, but I’ve been doing it weekly for years now, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’ve even adopted a few practices lately that are saving me even MORE time and money and I can’t wait to share them with you!
Why Should You Meal Plan
First, let’s talk about the importance of meal planning. Wait…is it even important?? I’ll use my husband and I as an example.
When we were first married, he was still in school and I was working full-time. I had been used to eating a college diet that consisted of pasta, baked potatoes, and cereal every night. I was super good with my grocery budget because I only had $30 a week or so to spend.
Well once we combined two incomes, it was like all of my frugal shopping practices went out the window! Our grocery budget skyrocketed! We never planned our meals, just bought whatever we wanted, and ate out sometimes 2 times a week. This not only hurt our wallets but also our waistlines (more on that in another post…)
Based on that experience, I started meal planning and have been pretty consistent with it for the last five years. Here are the reasons why having a weekly menu is important:
- It saves you money! No more eating out because you don’t know what to cook! I also save money on perishables because I only buy what we need for the week and nothing else.
- It saves you time! If you have everything written out, there’s no guessing when it comes to dinner time. I just take a look at our menu and get to cooking!
- It’s better for your health! For pretty much any meal, home cooking is by far healthier than eating out. When you meal plan you can make adjustments and variations to any recipe to make if fit your health goals
My 7-Day Meal Planning Method
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of meal planning, let’s dive into my method! There’s lots of ways to meal plan, but this is what I’ve found works best for me!
On Wednesday or Thursday of every week, I set aside about 20-30 minutes to meal plan and write my grocery list. Why Wednesday? Because that’s when the new grocery ad comes out! One of my biggest tips is to meal plan around your weekly grocery ad! That way you can save even more money by planning recipes with ingredients already on sale.
I don’t use a fancy sheet or printable to write my menu, just a slim, magnetic writing pad! I love these because they’re long enough for all of the grocery items I usually need and it hangs on my fridge so I can add to it through the week when something runs low and I know I’ll need to add it to my grocery list.
So I just grab a sheet, flip it over, and list out the days of the week on the back.
One of the toughest parts of meal planning, for me, is knowing which dinners to make! It felt like I was always drawing a blank when I sat down to meal plan. Something that I’ve started doing is picking a theme for each night so I don’t have to think too hard when Wednesday rolls around. Here is what I usually do:
Sunday: Family Dinner (with extended family)
Monday: Chicken recipe
Tuesday: Ground turkey recipe
Wednesday: Meatless recipe
Thursday: No-leftover recipe
Friday: Pizza and salad
Saturday: Eat out
I will switch up those meals depending on what’s going on during the week, but I pretty much stick to that format! We always have pizza on Fridays and we always go out to eat on Saturday, so those are two meals I don’t have to worry about planning! And I usually make the recipes that I know will have a lot of leftovers toward the beginning of the week so that we have enough to take for lunches each day.
That’s another way to save money! Double your dinner recipes so that you have enough for lunch leftovers!
You’ll probably notice that I only use meat in two of my dinners throughout the week. This saves me a lot of money too. I’ll still make recipes with other, cheaper types of meat like kielbasa sausage, canned chicken, or hot dogs, I just don’t use the more expensive types of meat more than once a week.
For a long time I never kept track of which recipes I was making so we were eating tacos like every other week lol! I started writing the meals we ate down in a notebook and underlined them with a color based on which theme they fit with. I already know which meals are my families favorites, so those are the ones that got added to the list.
This is always a great starting point when I’m trying to decide what to make for the week, but I still found myself repeating certain recipes.
My newest technique is to take a picture of my meal plan from the previous week and upload it to an album in my Google Photos! This way, I have a digital record of everything we’ve had so I can scroll back a week at a time to make sure I’m not repeating meals! My purpose with this is also two-fold, because by the start of 2019 I’ll have an entire year’s worth of meal plans saved online! My hope is that I’ll just pull up the plan I used the previous year and re-use the same recipes which should save me so much time!
Another goal I’ve made for myself is to make one new recipe each week! I have my tried and true recipes that I love, but I wouldn’t have found most of them if I hadn’t made them at least once. This is when I turn to Pinterest! I just search “ground turkey recipe” and pick one that looks tasty and easy! You can check out my recipe board below. Feel free to follow me on Pinterest to keep up with new recipes I find!
Tips for Grocery Shopping
Once I have my meals planned out, the rest is pretty easy. I flip the sheet over and start writing down the ingredients I’ll need to make each recipe. I usually do this as I’m walking through the pantry and fridge to take stock of what ingredients I already have.
Then I’ll add any snacks we need to stock up on, fruits for the week, and I always add milk and eggs!
Another trick I like to do is highlight the fresh produce I need to buy on my list. The produce section is usually toward the front of the store and if I forget to grab something, I have to go all the way back to the front of the store and that is not a pleasant experience with two kids! If I highlight the produce beforehand I’m sure not to miss it!
Meal planning can seem super intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! I don’t know what I’d do every week if I didn’t have my handy menu to keep me on track! This is one of the best ways I’ve found to feed my family well-balanced meals that are affordable!
Do you think you’ll meal plan now? What was your favorite tip?
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