I feel like my second degree should be in meal planning. I have read many articles, watched just as many Youtube videos, and tried many different ways to plan meals.
Here are the steps that I believe that produce the best way to meal plan and save your family money
Before you ever put pen to paper. You need to take a quick inventory of what you already have in pantry, fridge, and freezer. Make sure to check your “To Use” bin. This bin will show items that have a limited shelf life and need to be used.
By taking an inventory, it will ensure you aren’t buying duplicates and that you have enough room for the incoming groceries.
Create Favorite Meal List
Once a season, I like to make a list of our favorite meals. In the summer, we grill a lot. In the winter I make a lot of soups and stews. Each season I like to make a quick list of our favorite dinner meals organized by protein.
By doing this, it helps me a great deal when I may be stuck for ideas and have a great deal of one kind of protein.
Create categories by day
I think the easiest way to get ideas when you are stumped for what to put on your meal plan, is to create categories by day.
For example you could go by type, Monday could be “Mexican Mondays”, Tuesdays could be “Soup and Sandwiches Tuesdays”, Wednesday could be “Crockpot Wednesdays”. Another way is you could go by protein, beef on Mondays, pork on Tuesdays, chicken on Wednesdays, etc.
By doing this you are limiting your choices and can quickly look at your favorite meal list and find something that fits into each category.
Create a month long meal plan
Ok, don’t stop reading. This is easier than you think. First take a blank calendar page. I print mine from Google Calendars. I put my categories at the top of each day of the week and I put together a two week dinner meal ideas. Yes I did say make a month long meal plan, but the trick is that you are going to take that two week meal plan and repeat it twice in a month.
Why this is so great is that a lot of times you have to buy a large amount of certain ingredient(s) and you only use it for that one meal. It then may go to waste. By repeating your meal plan, it in theory decreases the amount of groceries you need to purchase.
Don’t forget breakfast/lunches
One of my biggest struggles is breakfasts and lunches. I now put together a list of easy breakfasts and lunches. I will just rotate every two weeks just like I do with my dinner menu.
Give yourself some grace
Even though you do all of this planning, things will still come up. I create my meal plan every month, but there are days that we end up going out to eat with family or we make a quick pizza at home. That is ok. I feel like the best part of this is that it can be as strict or flexible as you need it. However if it works most of the time than it is a win!
I would love to hear how you meal plan. I am always open to new ideas!