The idea of meal planning can be overwhelming. There is loads of information of meal prepping out there. I am not going to go into meal prepping in this post (that’s a whole different beast that we will tackle together another time). This post is strictly going to focus on my process for planning what my family will eat in a week, and how I have used this process to save myself time and hundreds of dollars a month.
Make Yourself a Recipe Arsenal
Gather up the recipes that you know your family likes. Make a Pinterest Board, write some recipes down in a notebook, or maybe even cut recipes out of magazines and stick them in a binder. I have an old school recipe box that I love as well as a slew of recipes saved to Pinterest. Having your family’s favorite recipes on hand will save you time during meal planning, in the case that your creative juices come to a screeching halt when the pressure is on.
A few tips:
Keep the recipes simple and easy to prepare.
Categorize your recipes by cuisine type, and use the categories to pick what you eat each day. For example, Meatless Monday, or Taco Tuesday.
This is the money-saving part. Give yourself a half hour a week to make your meal plan and start by taking inventory of the food you already have. Take a look at the food you have in the refrigerator that will expire soon. (This is also a good time to clear out what may have already expired!) What do you have in your pantry or in your freezer that could be incorporated into next week’s meals? Quickly jot down the ingredients that you already have.
Check the Ads
After I have my home inventory, I check the ads for my local grocery stores and make note of what is on sale. I don’t do a lot of couponing, but if you do, INSERT COUPONING PROCESS HERE.
With your inventory list in hand, brainstorm a few meals you could make using those ingredients. Refer back to your recipe arsenal or check out Supercook. Supercook allows you to search recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.
Unless you live under a rock, you know that Pinterest is the home to thousands of recipes, many of which are published by moms just like you and me. I frequently search “Weeknight Dinners” on Pinterest while brainstorming my meals for the week. I save my favorite weeknight meals to a board so I have them on hand. You can follow my Weeknight Meals Board here –> https://pin.it/jmdxtl2t2wvkpt.
I only plan three dinners per week. My family is small, just my husband, myself, my three-year old son, and one-year old daughter. If I planned to cook dinner every night, the leftovers would be overwhelming. When I first started meal planning, I made a complex and fancy meals Monday through Friday. This was an enormous waste of time and money. We have whittled the menu down to include three dinners. This is what works best for our family; you may need to do some trial and error to see what works for you.
Take into consideration what your family calendar looks like this week. Do the kids have soccer games on Wednesday? That might be when you should get out the crock pot and fix a delicious, make-ahead pot roast. Consider making a meal type calendar.
When it comes to breakfast and lunch, the simpler the better. I make a large batch breakfast. My kids love eggs and oatmeal, which conveniently both keep in the fridge extremely well.
Lunch at our house usually consists of leftovers or meals that are derivative of leftovers. If we had pot roast for dinner the night before, lunch might be pot roast tacos or wraps.
You planned the meals! Hooray! Take a look at all the recipes you picked for the week and write down what ingredients you will need to buy. Be mindful of how much of each ingredient you need so that you have enough. For example, if your kids drink a gallon of milk in a week, and you are making Alfredo, you need more than just a gallon of milk.
Once you have the list of what you need to buy, categorize it by corresponding section in the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, etc.) and rewrite it. Then go shopping and prepare to crush this week’s meals!