I absolutely LOVE food and I am sure YOU do as well.
But guess what?
It’s INSANELY EXPENSIVE and usually ends up spoiled or wasted!
If you are like us eating out and buying groceries eats up a HUGE portion of our monthly budget. Pun intended…
Now I am not going to tell you that you need to fast for 30 days… but I am sure that would help your wallet, but one of the simple ways to protect your budget each month is to meal plan. Not only does it help answer this question:
What’s for dinner?
But it allows you to stretch your money farther each month allowing you to pay off more debt or put more towards savings… so here it is…
6 Insanely Easy Steps to Meal Plan
Step 1: Realize NO Meal Plan is perfect!
Stop google searching!!! I am serious. Right now you are probably in meal plan analysis paralysis and as a result you have not started ANY meal planning. You need to understand that there is NO perfect system out there. The plan that works for you and your family may NOT be the plan that works for mine. What you need is a good solid foundation and commitment to making meal planning work!
Start off simple and pick 1 method. Try that method for an entire month. That is 4-5 weeks. Document what is working for you, what isnt working and make SMALL tweaks to the plan.
DO NOT ABANDON THE ENTIRE PLAN!
It takes 30 days to create a habit. You are creating a meal planning habit. STICK TO IT!
Step 2: Forget Fancy
Do you have dreams of meal planning bliss in which each night is a 5 star deluxe meal?? If so…
Meal planning does not suddenly turn you into a 5 star Gordon Ramsey. I am sorry to burst your bubble.
To many fail at meal planning because they randomly pull a weeks worth of recipes off the internet or out of a cookbook and slap them down on the calender.
I am sure these meals look AMAZING on Pinterest!!! I have to be honest, I am sure some of them are delicious, but…. In order to make meal planning work you need to start SIMPLE!
In month 2 or 3, after you have gotten your meal planning firmly grounded, THEN started going crazy with recipes. But when you are just starting you want to be realistic.
Effective meal planning is just that… PLANNING.
Deciding upon 5 completely different meals will leave you with a couple things.
- Hefty Grocery Bill
- When you pick random recipes rather than strategically plan meals, you end up buying a TON of small extras because who has cream of tartar in your cupboard.
- Wasted food
- Again when you are not strategic about your meal planning you have half a head of lettuce or half a tomato that goes bad. Strategic meal planning eliminates as much food waste as possible.
Step 3: Decide how many meals you need and pick your recipes carefully
Steps 1 and 2 were really to get you mentally prepared for meal planning. For many people the idea of meal planning is foreign and it will take time to get used to it. So while the first two steps seemed simple, they are truly the foundation to effective meal planning.
Remember in Step 2 we talked about Forgeting Fancy! That is crucially important.
Here are some Meal Planning PRO Tips for picking recipes:
Pick recipes that you know
Have you ever tried making a brand new recipe and freak out half way in the middle wondering if anyone was going to like it??? Yeah… imagine a week of that… Do yourself a favor. Pick recipes you know and then…
ADD 1 New one!
Not 2… just one.
Select recipes that have common ingredients
Remember that head of lettuce going bad??? Or that cream of tartar that no one has? Yeah… pick recipes that have common ingredients. This lowers your grocery bill AND eliminates wasting food.
Find meals that have leftovers!
Brown bag lunches are budget friendly and a great way to step up your meal planning game.
Step 4: Review Your Week
Meal planning is all about PLANNING.
After you select your meals you need to sit down and really look at your calendar. Does your son or daughter have an after school event such as baseball or dance on Tuesday? If so, that is probably NOT the night to make a time intensive meal.
For us, we tend to select meals that offer leftovers on Mondays. This will allow us to brown bag it almost any day during the week. It doesnt make sense for us to make meals that provided leftovers on Friday because we were so busy on the weekend that it never got eaten.
Again these are the small tweaks that you need to make based upon your family.
Step 5: Create your shopping list
Most amateurs stumble here… I am not going to lie, I did as well. For a LONG time! It wasn’t until one day that I was putting groceries away and I put the taco shells away on top of the 3 other boxes of tacos shells that I realized something is not right.
If you were like you me, you took the ingredient list off the recipes and converted that into your grocery list… BOOM done… NOT!
First absolutely write down the ingredients to all your recipes.
Combine common ingredients.
***Most Important Step Incoming***
Check your Freezer and cupboards and cross off items that you already have!
Dry food is okay to have extra of but 4 boxes of taco shells is not necessary…
Step 6: Prep your food
You are almost there! Think marathon… you can see the finishline.
So many get to this step and completely ignore it… and guess what?
Their meal plan begins to crumble after one long day at work.
No one… I mean NO ONE wants to come home after a rough day and peel potatoes. I am serious… but if you are one of those people comment below, haha Id love to hear from you.
We do our meal shopping and prepping on Sundays. Our goal is to try to eliminate the recipe time wasters such as peeling potatoes. That means we season, cut, chop, and clean, etc. We want to basically turn the recipes into “Put in oven for 25 minutes and eat” recipes. So we do everything we can do to get our meals ready for the week.
CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! Now Rinse and Repeat!
Meal planning is all about commitment and routine. The more times you follow this process the better you will get and it will become just part of your routine. Tweak the process to meet the needs of your family and remember no plan is perfect. If you stumble pick it up the next day and try again.
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