If you are anything like me, then you are constantly searching for the next meal planning hack that is going to simplify your life. Well, look no further because I’ve got a hack for your family meal planning on a budget that is going to be a total game changer. Today I’m sharing how to save money with a make-do night.
Meal Planning 101: Plan Out Your Meals
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of meal planning. When I have a plan, I know what to buy at the grocery store. I’m able to stick to my list and grocery shop slightly less often. I still head back to the store for bananas and milk, but for the most part I’m able to shop less often when I meal plan correctly.
Every Monday I try to share my #MealPlanMonday weekly menu on my Instagram story (you are following along on Instagram, right?). It’s a fun way for me to encourage you to create your own weekly menu. I always include a link to the printable that I use weekly for my own meal planning. You can download a copy in this blog post.
Last week I shared a picture of our menu that had “make-do night”. So many of you messaged me and emailed me about it that I just knew I had to write up a blog post about it. It’s become one of my favorite nights of the week because it holds special memories for me and it helps us save money each week.
What is Make Do Night?
Make do night is the best night of the week for busy moms. It’s the night of the week where the kids get to decide what they want to eat, but mom doesn’t have to cook. Like most good blog post ideas, this one comes with a story.
We always want what we don’t have, right? It’s like the proverbial saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Well, that is exactly how I felt about dinners growing up. Even though my mom made my family a great dinner each night, I longed to eat dinner at my best friend’s house because her mom let her have a make-do night once a week where she was able to eat anything she wanted as long as the mom didn’t have to cook.
Related Post: 7 Steps to Make Meal Planning Easy
My mom was a stay at home mom who made us a full dinner each night. She never made anything super special that would impress a Top Chef, but it was a home cooked meal on our dinner table each night of the week at the exact same time
My best friend’s mom was a working mom, and while she put dinner on the table (figuratively and literally) most nights of the week, she instituted make-do night as a way to give herself a break from cooking all the time.
As a kid, I had no idea the why behind make-do night. I just thought that my best friend had the coolest mom in the world. On make-do night we would eat cereal for breakfast or cook bacon in the microwave. Sometimes we’d make a sandwich. No matter what we did, we always had more fun deciding what to eat and making it then we did actually eating it.
Nearly 20 years later, I met up with that friend for a yearly get together of our high school friends. Late one night over wine we got to talking about growing up together and I mentioned that I always thought make do night was the best night ever. She laughed and said that she felt the same. We had a good laugh as adults generally do when they look back on childhood memories and realize that parents can be such geniuses sometimes. As a kid we thought make do nights were magical. We thought it was a special gift that her mom gave us when in reality she just wanted a break from making dinner.
Related Post: 7 Ways to Make Money as a Stay at Home Mom
That’s the thing about family traditions like make-do night. They may seem trivial, they may seem like nothing more than a new way to save money on groceries and get out of cooking dinner for a night, but to a kid, it’s absolutely thrilling.
How to Institute your own Make-Do Night
It’s easy! You write down “make-do night” on your weekly menu planner and then you let the kids pick whatever they want to eat that you don’t have to cook.
My kids are still too small to actually make their own meals so I let them pick what they want to eat for make-do night. Usually that ends up being cereal for dinner. Let’s be honest, writing “make-do night” on your menu is so much cooler than writing “cereal night”, am I right?
Here are some other great make do night ideas:
Ideas for young kids that can’t cook yet:
- Yogurt and granola with fruit
- Veggies and dips
- Pretzels and hummus
Ideas for kids who can use a microwave:
- Scrambled eggs in the microwave
- Grilled cheese
- Microwavable mac and cheese
How this Helps with Family Meal Planning on a Budget
Make do night is such a great way to save money when you do your family meal planning. Just by instituting one night a week where you don’t have to buy extra groceries, you can reduce your grocery bill by $5-20, depending on how much your family eats.
Like most families, we end up with a few odds and ends throughout the week. I’m not just talking about leftovers, I’m talking about an extra hotdog bun,a slice of lunch meat, a handful of chips and guacamole, random canned goods of ravioli or baked beans, and the very end of the cereal bag. This is the kind of stuff we use up on make-do night in order to clean out our pantry and save money on groceries.
Make do night is different than leftovers night
We still do leftovers once a week too. Our leftovers night is a completely different night that also helps us save money and reduce food waste. With leftovers night and make-do night on the menu, I only have to cook 5 nights a week or less, which makes me a much happier momma.
Related post: How to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
What Meal Planning Hack do you use to Save Money?
Now you go! Leave a comment, email me or reach out on social media to tell me your favorite meal planning hack to save money. I’m always up for learning from you. You can even head to my private Facebook group to share some of your tips with my community!