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Everyone knows how easy it is to spend a fortune on food each month. Did you know you can save TONS OF MONEY by meal planning and sticking to it? You absolutely can! And we are going to show you how to do it quickly and easily in 6 simple steps.
I learned early on that going to the grocery store without a solid plan 1) caused me to spend more, 2) caused me to forget many items we needed, 3) took so much more time! Once I got meal planning down to a science, we saved money and time – both in the kitchen AND at the grocery store. And then there is the stress factor. When 3pm rolls around and you have no idea what’s for dinner, you can’t help but feel stressed. Having a plan in place means always having an answer to everyone’s favorite question: What’s for dinner?
Are you ready for some tips and ideas to get you started with meal planning AND saving money? Well, here you go!
One: Inventory the Food You Have in Stock
Taking inventory, and keeping track of, the food you already have in stock in your home is the best way to save money. How? Well, because you’re using what you have on hand, AND knowing what you’re almost out of lets you purchase it before you run out and therefore at the best price. When you are meal planning it is helpful to know what you have on hand.
Two: Learn How to Shop the Sales
By shopping the sales at your local stores, your meal planning will be based on what is on sale and in season. This will allow you to save money or stay on budget, and also eat healthier. You will also begin to notice what “good” prices really are for the foods your family eats. For example, a breakfast cereal that is on sale 2/$5 seems like a good price- until you see it a few weeks later for $1.88 a box. By knowing what prices are “good”prices your meal planning efforts will add up to great savings.
This is a great post on how to shop sales and save tons of money on your food bill. (<— You can also download our money saving grocery store printables there, too!)
Three: Identify Your “Go To” Recipes
These are recipes your family loves, are easy to assemble, and don’t take much time to cook. It’s not necessary to try a new recipe every night, or prepare an elaborate meal. Easy wins every time! Save the involved recipes for weekends and occasional weeknight dinners. When you are looking for new recipes, keep the ones you want to try in an easily accessible place, like Pinterest. This way every recipe is always with you, since chances are your phone is always with you.
For some new, easy & delicious recipes, take a look at these posts:
Four: Keep It Fun
If you are not thrilled by being the one who has to do all of the thinking, shopping, cooking and inevitable clean up, I hear ya. But someone has to do it, and that someone is you. For me, I don’t mind the cooking or shopping or even the cleanup. My biggest peeve is the “I don’t care” when I ask people for meal ideas! Having a meal plan makes the whole thing easier, and having “theme nights” keeps it fun for everyone. Think Pasta Night, Taco Tuesday, Soup & Sammies, Breakfast Night, etc. You get the point. When my kids were little their favorite night was “Fun Dinner Night,” which was code for chicken strips, mac & cheese, artichoke dip, cheese and crackers…you know, fun foods that turned into kind of a buffet for them to choose from.
Five: Make a List
Using your local sale ads, and your favorite recipes, start planning your menu. As you plan your dinners, add ingredients to your shopping list. Some people like to plan each day’s meal day by day, like spaghetti on Monday, pork chops on Tuesday and so on. If you do, then using a calendar template may work out well for you. I just like to make a list of dinners I can make throughout the week- the daily schedule was too rigid for me and if something came up I was too uptight to deviate from the plan. I’m a work in progress. 😉 Now I meal prep and make food for the week on Sundays almost every week.
Six: Cross Check Your List
Once your grocery list is made, double check that everything you need is on it, AND that you don’t already have any of the items on your list. Maybe you already have tahini sauce or a can of diced tomatoes. Taking a couple minutes to check your pantry can save you a few dollars every time.
See? It’s not so hard or time-consuming after all! Meal planning may take 15-20 minutes a week, but it will save you so much time and money it is well worth it! No more drive-through food, no more stopping at the store for rushed shopping, and no more “what’s for dinner” stress. It’s a win-win-win weeknight in the works!
If you are ready to take it a step further and start meal prepping, which is making your food for the week in advance for super easy weeknights, you’ll want to check out our Meal Prep Like a Pro Series!
If you would like additional meal prep and easy recipes ideas, check out our Meal Prep Motivation Pinterest board and also the following posts:
Meal Prep Like a Pro With These 10 Yummy Recipes
Meal Prep Like a Pro- Part Two: 10 Awesome Recipes to Try This Month
Meal Prep Like a Pro- Part Three: The Lunch List
Meal Prep Like a Pro- The School Lunch Edition: No Parents Allowed!