It’s time we make things easier on ourselves. It’s time we organize the chaos, or at least try.
Meal planning is one of the top ways to save money at the grocery. No last-minute stops at the drive-through trips. No food wasted. No impulse buys.
But let’s face it: Meal planning can be time-consuming and downright intimidating.
So, I want to give you the quick and dirty on how to meal plan in just a few minutes, while saving money in the long run.
Plan the Same Time Each Week
Meal planning seems overwhelming, but when you have a system in place, it’s just another routine. Just like you know that every Tuesday you’ll watch your favorite show, you will soon know that every Saturday, you plan your meals.
You may already be rolling your eyes but I must make this clear: planning your meals once a week will save you money and time
Try to set aside an hour every week that will be your meal-planning time. Make it a habit.
Once I plan my meals on Saturday, I go online and order groceries to my local grocery store (many offer free grocery pickup). The groceries are ready the next day, so I’ll stop on Sunday and pick them up.
Make it fun
: Plan your meals while you are watching your favorite show.
I use a Pinterest board
and pin things to a board labeled “MEAL PLANS FOR THE WEEK.” It's easy to use and follow.
If I’m ever waiting in the car (the car line for preschool can be 20 minutes before we even start moving) or if I’m sitting at the doctor’s office, I’ll just start pinning things that I think our family would like. I label them by day.
For example, If I pin a chicken dish, I will just change the description to “MONDAY: CHICKEN.”
Then if I pin meatloaf, I will change the description to “TUESDAY: MEATLOAF.”
When Saturday rolls around, I simply go to my Pinterest board & grab my weekly meal plan.
Make it fun: Add in one NEW recipe each week that you would not normally make. For example, this Hamchiladas recipe is unique and a tasty way to start!
Let the kids help! If you feel like you are in a cooking rut, let your kids pick the meals for a few days.
My family has four kids, so I let them each choose a day. Yes, I know we will end up with tacos, pasta, hot dogs and spinach soup (our daughter’s favorite, believe it or not) if I let them pick, but that consumes four days and limits my planning!
It’s a win-win because the kids are happy and I don’t have to plan.
Make it fun: If they get to pick a favorite meal, so do I! My favorite thing to do is to order alfredo sauce from a local restaurant, bring it home and put it over store-bought (cheap) noodles. I feel like I’m eating out, but I’m doing it on a $5 budget!
Consistency of Meals
My friend makes the same 30 meals every month. She writes out all 30 of their ‘go-to’ meals and then every month, so she makes the same things.
It’s really a great idea, because she doesn’t have to try to get creative. She always has the core ingredients on hand and only needs to shop for what they have already used, like produce and meat. Tacos, pasta, chicken ala king, meatloaf, meatballs and BBQ chicken are a few examples.
Make it fun: Ask your parents what they cooked often when you were little and try to recreate one of those meals every week or month. And the more you can use your freezer, and not have to re-make the same dishes over and over, the better.
Take it Easy on Yourself
I never plan more than a week at a time and I never plan more than five meals a week. Why? Things come up and plans change.
Maybe you were invited to a friend’s for a barbeque or maybe you decide to have leftovers one night. You might even designate one night a week as an “eat out” night or a “pizza night.”
Give yourself a break & only plan five meals, so you won’t be upset when you don’t use your sixth or seventh meal and the groceries don’t make it to the next week.
Make it fun (for you): When we go out to eat, everyone gets water, unless they want to pay $2 for a drink. I want our kids to learn how expensive these little things are. Let your kids experience this first-hand and tell them ahead of time that if they want soda, they need to pay their own way!
Meal planning can seem like a big time suck, but you won’t be planning each night. You will instead plan just once a week. You’ll save yourself money, too, as you won’t be picking up dinner nightly or buying duplicate items because you forget what you have. Planning once for the week has huge benefits and your family will see the rewards of that planning soon enough.