I know you have all heard the term meal planning but you may not understand exactly what it is. Meal planning is when you plan your meals in advance. Sometimes this is done weekly, bi-weekly or even a month at a time. It is very important to do when trying to save money and valuable time for yourself!
When you plan your meals in advance you will avoid impulse purchases, extra trips to the store, and save yourself from having those frantic moments of trying to scrounge around and figure out what is for dinner. It can be a little scary sounding for a beginner so I am going to break it down for you into a few easy steps.
Decide how long you need to meal plan for
When deciding how long to meal plan for you will want to keep in mind your pay periods and how many times you want to go to the store. If you get paid every two weeks then planning a bi-weekly meal plan would probably work best for you. That will keep your shopping trips down and free up valuable time that you can spend with the kids or relaxing in your own back yard. If you get paid once a week then you will need to decide if a 7 day meal plan would work better.
Sometimes when first starting out, the longer meal planning can seem a bit overwhelming so feel free to start out small and work your way up.
Planning your meals
Once you have the amount of time figured out you will want to start a list of days for the amount of time you are shooting for. Make this a simple list on the calendar showing what you are having for dinner every night.
Don’t worry about ingredients at this point, just keep the list very brief. Here are some examples below.
- Monday – Pot Roast with potatoes, carrots, gravy and corn
- Tuesday – Vegetable lasagna with garlic toast
- Wednesday – BLT sandwiches with chips
- Thursday – White bean turkey chili
- Friday – Eat out
- Saturday – Kabobs with roasted potatoes and corn
- Sunday – Taco Salad
These are just ideas of course but it gives you an idea of what you list should look like. I love having them on the calendar in the kitchen so the family can look and see what we are serving for the week. If you don’t want to clutter up your calendar you can grab yourself another one just for this purpose or even keep a list on the refrigerator.
Start your grocery shopping list
Now that you have your planning done it’s time to start your grocery shopping list.
Go down the list starting with the first meal and write down everything you need to buy. This may take a bit of time checking to see what you have on hand but it will end up saving you time and money in the long run. I find that on items like hamburger that I may need for more than one meal that it is much easier to keep a tally next to the item on how many pounds I will need. This keeps you from trying to guess at the store when it’s busy and the kids may have you feeling distracted.
Make sure you add any breakfast or lunch items to your store list before you head out shopping. Don’t forget to use the Price List for the current week to help you with that.
Cooking your meals
Now that you have all your meals on the calendar, your shopping list made and purchased, you’re ready to start preparing your meals. Make sure that you check your list often and thaw out your meat the night before in your refrigerator. There is nothing worse than having the items on hand and not having them ready to go when you need them.
Keep in mind that things will pop up in life that may lead your to switch your meals around on your list. The list is by no means sat in stone!
If you need to switch Monday with Wednesday because of an obligation don’t be afraid to do that – make sure you note the switch on the calendar to remind yourself of the change.
Do you have any tips to share that help you with your own meal planning?