Meal Planning: Take Back Control of your Time, Money, and Sanity!

It’s 5pm. Your significant other will be home from work in less than an hour. You grocery shopped yesterday, but find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator feeling stumped as to what in the world you are making for dinner.
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But I bought $250 worth of FOOD yesterday….. what went wrong?!!

Let me tell you a little story about what went wrong, because this unfortunately, is also the reality I used to live.

You perused the aisles of the grocery store, children in tow, aimlessly throwing flavored bags of rice, jars of assorted sauces, eggs, milk and bread, of course, and maybe some fresh (or frozen) produce in your basket too. You bought all the items your family likes to eat, and even got creative and bought yourself a nice pork loin from the meat counter. To avoid the impending meltdown from your toddler over bear shaped graham crackers, you also tossed 2 boxes of those, and some Oreos in to join the party. Your friendly grocery checker scanned and bagged all of your items, you happily handed over a chunk of your hard earned paycheck, and felt like- BOOYAH, I AM THE FEEDER OF ALL THE MOUTHS! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

And now here you are, scratching your chin, wondering what the heck you spent all that money on. Meanwhile, you warm up Hot Dogs and Baked Beans for dinner…… again. “AGAIN?”…the complaints from peanut gallery as you squirt ketchup on their plates.
So if this sounds familiar to you, I am here to share with you the ONE tip that has not only organized the way I get meals on the table, but SAVES ME TIME, MONEY and my SANITY in the process.

—————-MEAL PLANNING—————-

Yes friends, Meal Planning changed my life.

Hi, my name is Emily, and I’m a Meal Planner……. “HI EMILY”.

You may be wondering just how something so simple in thought could bring such change to my household… and I encourage you to follow my easy steps and find out for yourself. You will never look back, for realz.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on Dinner only. But this method can apply to both Breakfast and Lunch.  My advice is to master Dinner first, and then move on to planning breakfasts and lunches for your lifestyle and schedule.

Here we Go!

Mastering Meal Planning in 3 Easy Steps:

 There are 3 steps you will need to complete first. These 3 will take extra time up front, but once you have done this work, you will be able to Meal Plan quickly and efficiently in the future.

  1. Create a “Master List” of all the dinners you typically cook.
    -Think of anything and everything you make for dinner. Even different versions of a recipe (ex. Chicken Tacos & Beef Tacos). This will end up being quite lengthy, however, once you have this down on paper (write neatly!), you can then reference this every week you plan your meals.
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  2. Use Pinterest, Cookbooks, and Recipes from friends and family to supplement your Master List.
    -Continuously adding different dinner ideas and recipes will keep cooking at home fun, and your family will enjoy the variety. There’s nothing appealing about eating the same 10 meals all the time. Be sure to add a variety of meals, too, that range in time it takes to prepare them. Having some 15 minute meals in there is ALWAYS a good idea.
  3. Put your Master List in a safe place.
    -Consider starting a “Family Binder” where you can keep things organized for your Home (Meal Planning, Budget, Calendars, etc).

***Once these 3 steps have been completed, you will ONLY need to follow the next 3 steps every time you Meal Plan.***

  1. Shop your Pantry!
    -Before you plan any of your meals for the week, see what items you have on hand. If you have White Rice, use your Master List to look for any meals that can be made with this item (ex. “Stir Fry with Rice” or “Chicken and Rice”). DOUBLE POINTS if you can find a meal or two that you can make almost entirely with items you already have. THIS is a major factor in saving money! You will be surprised with how much food you already have…. every time you Meal Plan. NOW: Write down the meals you can make with items on hand.
  2. Plan your Meals according to your schedule.
    -Your son has baseball practice on Wednesday night at 6pm. This is probably not a good night to attempt an Oven Roasted Chicken and Vegetables. BLT Sandwiches and a good ole blue box of Mac & Cheese is the better plan. And that’s perfectly acceptable! I encourage fresh, home-cooked, from scratch foods over anything frozen or in a box. HOWEVER, this is still real life. And that plan for dinner is 100 times better than drive-thru any day. Do what works for YOUR life. (Writing your planned meals for the week on a calendar is a key step in staying on track! Use your calendar to look ahead to what is happening in your week when planning meals.)
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  3. Write your Grocery List.
    -Here comes the fun part. You are going to write a grocery list… sounds basic. You do that all the time. BUT, this list is not just going to be a reminder to get Butter and Milk. This list is going to have that stuff you need, PLUS all the fixin’s you need to create the Meals you Planned! Woohoo! The best way to do this is as follows:
  • Start with the Meals you are making from items on hand. Add any groceries needed to complete these meals to your list. (You have White Rice and decided to make Stir Fry… add Chicken and the Veggies you want to use to your list).
  • Go through each Meal you Planned and add all the ingredients you need for each one to your list. Think about side dishes with your dinners too… when you decide to make Garlic Chicken, think about what will be served alongside (potatoes, vegetables, rice, salad, etc). Make sure these items get added to your list if needed.
  • Specify quantities! If you need 1 Green Bell Pepper for Stir Fry, but also need one for Pepper Steak, make sure to write “2 Green Bell Peppers”.

As a helpful reminder, next to your grocery list, write a column with the Meals you Planned. This always helps me in the grocery store to stay focused and remind me what the Plan is.

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Now you are equipped with your list of Meals Planned and groceries needed. You are ready to conquer the grocery store like the true warrior you are. You have made it this far, the finish line is close!

As I mentioned above, Meal Planning has helped me to get meals on the table in an organized way. But when I first started in my Meal Planning journey, I did not have it so figured out. Creating a Master List has saved me a ton of time. I used to sit down once every 2 weeks and Meal Plan. I would Shop my Pantry, scroll Pinterest, and draw from memory for Meal ideas. I would try to think back to what I made the 2 weeks prior and try not to repeat too many meals. It was time consuming. Now, since I also calendar my meals, I can look back on my calendar and see what I cooked, and use my Master List while Shopping my Pantry and planning the rest of our meals. It is the easiest and most efficient way to get this task done. I HIGHLY encourage you not to skip these steps!

And for some of you, when I mentioned SAVING MONEY, that sparked your interest. Shopping for groceries this way will keep you from buying a ton of stuff you will not use this week. Which WILL lower your grocery bill. When you Plan your Meals too, you can choose to be more frugal one week, if maybe an unexpected expense comes up. You have control over the meals you cook, so if you need to eat cheap, you can do that. There have been times when I LITERALLY spent $20 at the grocery store for 2 weeks worth of meals because I already had SO MUCH food on hand. I Shopped my Pantry like a boss, and you can too. Now go get ’em!
Please feel free to leave me a comment letting me know if these tips have helped you and your family to eat at Home more! Happy Planning!

What’s the least amount of Money you have spent on groceries for the week?

 

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