Meal planning can be overwhelming but once you master it you will save time and money. I’ve been meal planning for years and found a lot of tips and tricks along the way.
The few times I’ve skipped meal planning I’ve been shocked how much more stress I had and how much more money I spent on food. It’s a good reminder of how much it helps.
When I was first married my husband and I didn’t make a lot of money. He was finishing his degree and I was doing just a little freelance work.
We needed to keep food costs down but still wanted to eat healthy food. I was raised eating a pretty natural diet and a lot of food from scratch.
One of the best ways I found to save money was to meal plan. Food waste is such a big problem in this country and it’s not only bad for the environment but it’s really bad for our budgets. It’s like throwing money away each month.
Another benefit to meal planning is it can often prevent you from eating out as much. You don’t have to try and find ingredients for a meal last minute, you know what you have and can make.
Getting Started With Meal Planning
There are many ways to meal plan. It may take you a bit of trial and error to find what works best for your family. First, ask yourself these questions.
- How often do you want to shop for groceries?
- Which meals will be planning for, breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner?
- Do you want to just have a number of meals planned or have them planned for set days?
- Where do you want to keep the plan?
I grocery shop once a month, so I meal plan once a month. I also only plan dinners because we do simple lunches. I use my meal planning printables and keep them on a clipboard until I grocery shop and then move the meal plan to my household binder.
Figuring these details is key and will help you make meal planning more successful for you and your family.
How to Meal Plan
Once you’ve asked yourself the questions above it’s time to start the actual meal planning. It can seem overwhelming at first but once you get into the habit it becomes quicker and easier.
There are many methods for meal planning but this is the one that I find helps save the most time and money. You may need to change it up a bit to fit your family but it’s a good starting point.
1. Start With What You Have
Check what food you already have on hand. Write down what you want to use. An easy way to do this is by keeping inventory lists. This is the best way to save money and prevent food waste. You’d be amazed at how many meals you can make with what you already have.
2. Check Sale Ads and Coupons
Check sale ads and coupons. Make a list of the sale items you think you may want to use. Also, check cash-back check apps like Ibotta for deals you want to use.
3. Decide What Meals You Want to Make
Look at the ingredients you have on hand and sale items you want to get. What meals can you make from these things? After you have those meals down decide what others you want that month.
Be sure to look at your schedule as well. Stick to easy meals on busy days and limit how many new things you try if your schedule is busy.
4. Keep Track of Ingredients
As you write down meals be sure to write down the ingredients you will need and quantities on your shopping list. If you see that you only need half a package of chicken for a meal you know to come up with a second meal for the rest or make a note to freeze the rest for your next meal plan.
5. Organize It
Now it’s time to make sure everything is ready for grocery shopping. I like to take my meal plan with me so I can make changes in the store if I find good deals. I put the meal plan, shopping list, and my coupons on a clipboard that I take with me to the store.
Once I’m done shopping I keep the meal plan in my household binder or on the fridge. Make sure it’s somewhere you remember and will use it.
Also, as you use the meal plan keep track of meals you enjoy. This list makes it easier to meal plan in the future.
- Meal Planning Printable Pack– This printable pack includes everything you need to meal plan; a shopping list, meal planning sheet, inventory lists, and more.
- Eat At Home Meal Plans– If you don’t like making your own meal plans this service may be for you. They do all the work for you. Each month you get access to four separate meal plans (Traditional, Slow Cooker, No Flour, No Sugar and Wholesome Traditional), grocery lists, and recipes. *Sign up before January 11th to save 30% with coupon code JANUARY
- Once a Month Grocery Shopping Guide– This is my FREE complete guide to how to grocery shop only once a month.
- Money Saving Worksheets– Learn how one family spends less than $200 a month eating organic food.