Meal planning is neither fun nor exciting, but it will save you thousands of dollars and several hours over the course of a year.
I have lots of resources to help you get started including a free template you grab at the bottom of this post.
1. Keep track of what is in your pantry and freezer.
I feel like this is a huge budget leak. When you don’t keep accurate track of what is in your pantry you can end up spending your grocery money on things you already have.
When you’re ready to meal plan scan this list.
Before you hit the store see what you have that can be combined to make a meal. A couple of chicken breasts, a cup of uncooked rice, a bag of frozen vegetables. Boom! Dinner.
2. Grab your phone
Go to your favorite supermarket’s website and do a quick scan to see what’s on sale. Then I will quickly compile a list of ideas and order groceries using Walmart grocery pick up. I already have my phone in my hand so it’s super easy and fast.
3. Look at your schedule
So you might have a late meeting one night, soccer practice another and something going on at your kid’s school. Plan for quick and easy meals those nights, maybe a bag of orange chicken from the freezer section and some bagged salad.
4. Double batch it and have a leftovers night
We do this all the time and it saves SO MUCH TIME! I might make a double pan of sheet pan fajitas that we eat on Monday night and then again on Wednesday. (The key is to break it up so you don’t have it two nights in a row.)
5. Buy food you actually want to eat
Don’t walk into the grocery store and decide you’re Gwenyth Paltrow (I saw a recipe on goop where she put steamed broccoli on a meatball sub. I mean I LOVE broccoli – for real I eat it almost daily- but it doens’t belong on a sub sandwich).
Yes, buy healthy foods, and yes, try new things. But also buy and cook things you actually want to eat and things you’re family actually wants to eat.
Don’t waste food in your fridge because when 5: 30 rolls around you just couldn’t stomach it.
6. Keep meals simple.
There is no need to reinvent the chicken! A roast bird, some roast vegetables and brown rice are not expensive and can be cooked very simply and easily. In fact, the entire meals will only cost you about $1.35 per serving!
7. Keep a list of your favorites
I know my kids will eat fish tacos, roasted vegetables, chicken sausage and anything pasta. I have a list of 20 go-to recipes that I know they eat. We throw in new things to give them exposure (it can take up to 10 times for a child to decide they like .a new thing) but we also stick to what we know.
8. Keep ready to go things on hand
I ALWAYS have turkey meatballs and sub rolls in my freezer and spaghetti sauce in my pantry for nights we are late or I just can’t cook. I can throw the meatballs in my slow cooker that morning or on a sheet pan that night and dinner is done in minutes. (Throw the sub rolls in the oven frozen for 10 minutes at 350 and you’re good to go!) Then it’s bagged salad and some fruit and we’re off to the races. (And by races I mean our hours long bedtime routine.)
9. Have theme nights.
Again, not complicated. Do something like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Sandwich Wednesday, Meat and Three Thursday and Pizza Friday. That is just an example, but it really puts meal planning on autopilot.