I love when people ask me for help with their grocery bill and meal planning. It makes me feel like I’m doing my job well. I’m no pro, but I don’t believe you have to be to help people. It’s why I started this blog. I want to offer resources for people to use, so they’re not at square one like I was when first starting off eating healthy. A few months back, I wrote a post about eating healthy on a budget. Believe me when I say: I know how hard it is to feed a family good quality food on a less than desirable budget. One of the tips I shared was to meal plan. I don’t know many people who meal plan. When I started out, I was left to my own devices. There’s several ways one can meal plan: 1x per week, 1x per month, prep all meals for the week/month in one day, etc. No “one way” will work for everyone.
I want to help you learn how to meal plan. I’ve created a template that you can print off or keep on your computer. This will come in handy when you meal plan. What I’ve created is a week-long chart. It will allow you to plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as help you to prepare anything in advance for the next day. It keeps it simple, clear, and easy to follow. Plus, it’s free to download.
Once you download and print the chart off, you’re ready to get started! Here’s what I do when I meal plan:
How to Meal Plan:
- Make a list of staple meals that your family likes. This will help as a reference while meal planning. My family likes roasted chicken, chicken soup, rib eye steak, spaghetti squash with meat sauce, stir-fry, etc.
- Note on your meal planning chart special occasions (such as holidays, birthdays or date nights). Also note anything that is not part of the usual schedule (such as church meetings, swim practice, working late, etc). This will help you plan your meals accordingly.
- Then, take a look in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Note anything that needs to be used and take inventory. Example: you have tons of veggies left over from last week’s grocery trip, there is a can of tuna that has sat in your pantry for 5 months, and you have 3 frozen chickens taking up space.
- From that list, plan meals that will use these up. Always plan meals that use leftover produce and meat for the beginning of the week. This will help cut down on waste, as well as cut your grocery bill. Not to mention free up space in your pantry!!
- Once you’ve planned the meals and used up what you already have, fill in the remaining meals for the week. Busy families should take advantage of “one pot meals” such as soups, stews and roasted meats. These not only take less time, but generally offer several more meals than just the one.
- After you finish meal planning, make your shopping list (it also helps to have recipes handy during this time). Put ONLY the things that are required for the meals you have planned on the list. For example: If you are making stir-fry, and the only thing you need is a jalapeño don’t put “things for stir-fry.” Just put, 1 jalapeño.
- Stick to you list, and stick to the meal plan. It’s the only way it works.
Some tips and tricks:
- I cook (at least) one new thing per week. This keeps my culinary juices flowing and keeps me out of a rut.
- I limit meals that are expensive (like lasagna or rib eyes) for no more than 1x per week.
- I always cook enough for dinner in order for there to be leftovers for lunches the next day. This helps save time, energy and money.
- I typically roast 1 chicken in the beginning of the week (Easily 4-6 servings with one bird), make bone broth with the carcass, and then towards the end of the week, make chicken soup. One $15 bird is good for 8 meals!
- When I make soup, I always freeze at least one servings worth. This helps when there are no leftovers and you need a lunch to pack (obviously if you have more family members than I do, you would want to reserve more).
- I also keep “quick” things on hand (like grass-fed hotdogs, tomato soup, sardines, eggs and bacon, etc) for times when things do not go as planned.
- I always use the “prep for tomorrow” row to help keep me organized. This reminds me to take out my meat from the freezer, or prep the crock pot. Look at this every night before you go to bed.
I hope this was helpful. I will share more with you as time goes on. Like I said, I’m still learning.
Let me know how your meal planning goes and if you plan on using my chart I made for you! I’d love to hear your journey!