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Meal Planning 101 – Save Time and Money

Meal Planning

Meal planning is crucial! When I didn’t plan our meals I would just go to the store, meander through each aisle and just throw whatever looked yummy into my cart. This wasn’t the best plan for our wallet so I had to make a change. The way I do meal planning is simple. I keep it simple so that I don’t get overwhelmed and quit.

There are so many ways to meal-plan. Some people like to plan their meals based on what’s on sale, some have a month planned out at a time and others sit down with their cookbooks and pick what they want to eat that week.

How I Menu Plan for our family

I like to plan based on what I have on hand. I also try to include one meal that can be used 2x that week. I’ve found that this saves us a lot of money and time, and for me TIME IS MONEY!!

1. Take inventory

Always take a quick look in your fridge, cabinets and freezer to see what meals you might have that are already prepared for that week. Jot down all the meals that you have already prepared in the freezer. Having a stockpile of basic ingredients like canned goods, rice, pasta, etc. is a great way to help you with meal planning.

2. Plan 1-2 meals using mostly items you already have made

I try to plan around 2 meals using items that I already have. For example, I usually have plenty of crushed tomatoes, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, beans, rice and frozen chicken around. With these ingredients I could make a few different dinners: Etoufee, chicken and rice casserole or chicken enchiladas. I would only have to pick up a few items to make these meals and it wouldn’t add much to our grocery bill.

3. Buy in BULK

Another good tip when planning your meals is to buy meat in bulk or whole. We usually stock up on chicken, ground beef, ground pork and sausages. Having meat in the freezer saves me a trip to the store and buying in bulk saves our family money! For example a whole chicken can be roasted and enjoyed with potatoes and veggies, then the leftover meat can be made into soup or a casserole the next day. The same goes for roasts and meats like sausage. I try to make more than I need for that first meal so I have enough for the next day.

4. Always have back up meals

Life gets crazy. Plans don’t go as we’d hoped.  Having a back up plan is a MUST! I usually have 2-3 back up meals ready to go. Sometimes these are freezer meals other times I whip up something simple from our stockpile in the pantry.
1. Spaghetti – We keep it simple, a box of spaghetti and a can of tomato sauce that we add herbs to.
2. Breakfast for dinner – Waffles in the freezer and eggs.
3. Curried Lentils – We love this meal and it’s cheap!

5. Write it down

I usually plan my menus one week at a time. To get started grab a notebook, scrap paper or your computer – you may want to grab your cookbooks or recipes box too.

First write down the meals that you can make from items you already have.
Jot down a few more meals that you’d like to have. Like I said above there are many ways to do this and you can pick the way that works for you. I sometimes check the sales ads in the paper before I plan meals. If there is a great deal on whole chickens I’ll plan my meals around that. I also take in to consideration the different seasonal veggies that are available.
Flip the paper over.
Write down the ingredients that you need to make those meals. Remember to plan your breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Go to your pantry, cross off all the items that you already have. What is left is your grocery list (aside from your staples, milk, bread etc.) Now jump in the car (don’t forget your coupons!!) and head to the grocery store.

6. Stick to the plan

This is what really make it work. Follow the plan, if you get stressed use one of your back up meals. Try sticking to the plan for several weeks. You’ll learn what works and what just doesn’t. Give yourself grace but be consistent. I promise that you’ll find your groove and get into a routine that works for your family.
Do you plan your weekly meals?
What’s your system and how does it work for you?
Leave a comment below!

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