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Meal Planning is a difficult, annoying and a time consuming project in and of itself. Whether you want to do it so you can stay in control of finances or health is your choice.
Often times, people seek to meal plan for one reason or another, only to quit shortly after starting.
Like most things in life, you need to put in effort to get results.
Unfortunately anything involving groceries and foods means you need to have really good restraint.
Little to no impulse buying.
Staying on track with meals.
Staying within the allotted grocery budget.
Making sure the families dietary needs are met.
Allergies need to be considered as well as the picky toddlers or husbands you have sitting at the table every night.
Here’s 10 things that will help make meal planning easy
One of the hardest things about meal planning and grocery shopping is when you are “brand loyal.”
Most big name companies actually produce the lesser brand names in the same factory, with the same ingredients… they just slap the product with a new label and carry on their way.
Kirkland Signature batteries are made by Duracell.
Kirkland Signature coffee is roasted by Starbucks.
A lot of Trader Joes Organic foods are made by Annie’s, and the list can continue on and on.
By being more open to off brand items, you can save money and still get quality items.
If you have a picky eater in your house that is very brand loyal, consider putting the off brand products in the name brand boxes.
*Unless you’re my husband and can literally taste the difference between a few things. I put store brand Cheerios in a name brand box…He ALWAYS knows the difference. Ritz crackers, Peter Pan Peanut butter, and one or two other things have him brand loyal. Me on the other hand- Not loyal to brands at all. With exception to the dairy free ones due to my son’s allergy.
Buying fresh strawberries for $6 a container for Christmas dessert is NOT an example of shopping seasonally.
You can get that same exact container for $1 in the spring.
If strawberries are really that needed, opt for frozen ones- SO MUCH CHEAPER.
Fall has great squash and vegetables available.
Every season has it’s own “thing” that’s on sale.
By planning meals around what’s fresh and in season, you are able to not only save money but also eat healthier.
Adding more whole foods from the current season into your diet is a great way to eat healthily.
Don’t turn up your nose at the Manager Markdown areas of the store. You’d be surprised at some of the “gems” you’d find marked 50%-75% off current sale sticker.
Be open to new foods, and look in those markdown areas of the store.
You may have written down that you wanted meatloaf on the 15th, but find 2 pounds of ground turkey for half the price of ground beef. BUY THE TURKEY! Use that in the place of the ground beef and you just made your dinner cheaper and healthier.
Sometimes, we just need an easy solution to finding out what’s on the menu.
If this sounds like you, you may be interested in this meal planning bundle. Over 1,072 recipes plus helpful options for various diets and allergies.
Click the image below to see more!
Stretching your meats in meals really helps to spread your budget.
View more about stretching meat and saving money on meats by seeing my post about saving money on meats.
Using produce is another great way to meal plan and budget.
By making produce the star of the show and no longer focusing on the meats, you can save money and be more creative in the kitchen.
How many ways can you cook a “meat and potatoes” style meal without it getting boring?
Focusing your meal around the veggies and healthier aspects makes it easier to plan.
When you think about the “side items” first, you get a flavor profile and theme in mind, making the meat portion of the dish fall into place much easier.
Example– Think of garlic and bacon roasted Brussel sprouts and brown sugar glazed baby carrots. What meat now sounds amazing with these sides? Personally, I think a pork roast would be excellent.
[Related] Click here for great tips and tricks on how to save money on buying produce.
One of the BIGGEST issues with meal planning is actually writers block.
You finally get that kid to nap, find a working pen and a moment to write up a meal plan for the week/month only to go completely blue screen in your mind as you hover your pen 1 inch above that paper.
An amazing tip that I have, is to keep a detailed log of meals that your family loves.
4 ways to keep track:
- Recipe cards in a recipe card holder box.
- Have recipes printed on a sheet of paper, and placed inside a sheet protector. Using 3 rings, place on a paper towel holder. Now you have a flip through menu on your counter and it’s convenient.
- 3 ring binder. Using a similar method to the one suggested above, but use a 3 ring binder instead. Now you can carry it anywhere and place it on a bookshelf so its off the counter. Great if you have limited counter space.
- Upload to your computer and keep digital a copy in a file folder. Takes up much less space and if you make your meal plans on the computer it could prove to be easier if you can copy/paste meals.
Giving every day of the week a different dinner theme can really help with meal planning.
Looking at a blank calendar and deciding that you want breakfast for dinner Fridays, now makes the task less daunting.
You only have 4 or 5 Fridays per month.
Think of 4 or 5 breakfasts that your family loves.
Pancakes, waffles, French toast, egg
Taco Tuesday is a cliche’ but it gets you in a good mood for Mexican themed recipes. Enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, chimichanga, tamales, taquitos.
And in no time flat you can have an entire month of foods planned out!
I really need to get better at naming things.. This sounds gross. But don’t go picturing dumpster divers pulling out half used tomatoes from the dinner before. THAT IS NOT what I’m trying to say.
A majority of people I speak to about meal planning have found their biggest issue to be leftovers.
They don’t like them. They won’t get eaten. And now its wasting time, money, and space in the fridge. So now what? Check out this post with over 98 different ways to reuse leftovers and create entirely new meals!
Recycle them. Turn them into something else. Spaghetti when mixed with egg, cheese and breadcrumbs can be baked in a pie tin and turned into spaghetti pie.
Leftover meats can be turned into any number of meals. So on and so forth.
Be creative and invent your own new recipes. Try using up small odds and ends in your home for a small-batch
Or search the internet for ideas on what to do with leftover “insert meal here.” This searching thing, is how I learned folks use leftover meatloaf in chili.
Making more food than you need, on purpose and then freezing half of it for a rainy day is not only a GREAT way to stretch a dime, but also sets you up for success.
You can’t anticipate the future.
How you feel from day to day, what surprises might come up.. they are all random and things can happen at a drop of a hat.
Having freezer meals ready to go, means that day you get a migraine and can’t leave bed- you and your family can still be fed.
The day you car dies coming home and you’re still a few days from payday with no idea what’s for dinner- you have dinner in the freezer.
I hope this list helps to make your meal planning easier!
Still, need some help?
What are some of your favorite meal planning tips and tricks?
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