As you know, meal planning is one of my favorite ways to save money. When I set aside time to plan out our dinners, I am less likely to waste money on take out or last minute meals. I’m constantly shocked by the amount of people who tell me that they have a hard time meal planning. For me it is fun. It’s probably no surprise to find out that I love talking about food. Tom makes fun of me because I’ll barely be finished with breakfast before I start planning what I’m going to eat for lunch.
I’ve seen a few posts floating around Pinterest with tips and tricks to make meal planning easy. While I usually hate to reinvent the wheel, I think I have a few extra tips that can streamline the process for you even more. If nothing else, it’s at least a fun glimpse into how I plan out our meals. This is a pretty similar post to the one I wrote about planning out my grocery trips. Surprise, surprise, grocery shopping and meal planning go hand in hand.
First things first, there is no wrong way to meal plan. Do what works for you, this is what currently works for me. Whose to say how long this method will work for my family.[bctt tweet=”There is no wrong way to meal plan. Do what works for you! #MealPlanMonday”]
1. Take stock of what you already have on hand. Sometimes I actually write down everything we have in the fridge, freezer and pantry. This helps me figure out what meals I can make from what food I already have. It’s also a big part of my Food Waste Friday routine.
2. Optional step- research sales. When I have lots of extra time, I will see what is BOGO at Publix, and what is on sale at Fresh Market for the week. To be honest, I haven’t had time to do this level of meal planning since Jackson was born. It’s still a good idea though!
3. Look up 1 new recipe for the week, no more. Keep it simple. If you try to whip up too many new recipes in one week, you will burn out. I always try to plan my most difficult recipes on easy nights such as weekends or nights I know Tom will be home early.
4. Plan for leftovers. Either make a big batch of food that is big enough for 2 nights or, if you hate leftovers, try to make something that can be re-purposed for another meal. My favorite example is to do a big chopped salad on (meatless) Monday and then use the rest of the salad in a wrap the next night.
5. Plan for an emergency meal. Always, always, always plan for a quick easy staple meal. In my house that is usually blackened tilapia and veggies. I know that no matter what has happened on a busy day I will have time to quickly make this meal in 25 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes to cook a frozen pizza. Find your staple and put it into your meal plan each week. Use it on those nights that you can’t accomplish anything.
6. Write it down! This is the most important step. It will keep you accountable. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Some days I just write it down on a scrap sheet of paper.
7. Don’t fret if you stray from the plan. What if you stray from the meal plan? No big deal. I can’t tell you the last time one of my weeks went as planned. I love the saying, “you can plan plans, but you can’t plan results”. Well, that’s true with your meal plan too. Don’t expect every week to go as planned. It’s a plan, not a magic spell to make all weeknights perfect! Don’t feel married to making a meal on the night you planned it. It’s okay if you mix it up a bit.
Most weeks we end up not making at least one of the meals. It’s usually the emergency meal that gets tabled for later, which is a good thing because I think I’d get tired of doing blackened tilapia every single week.
Sometimes my meal plan is as simple as a protein and veggie. Seriously, I’ll just write down meat + veggies and then see what is on sale at the store. You don’t have to go crazy with your menu, you just have to plan it.
What are your favorite tips for meal planning? Share them with me and my other readers!