Confessions of a Meal Planner
I’ve been weekly meal planning for over a year now, I have it down to a science. Fridays I review my Pinterest board for new recipes, check my stock, decide on a meal plan, and grocery shop. Currently our pantry and freezer is fairly stocked, which I must say is a great feeling. We are overflowing in everything from chicken to sausage. This has made grocery shopping easier and less expensive than normal, lately I've been shopping for perishables only (i.e. milk, creamer, fresh veggies, and fruit).
BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING
Meal planning eliminates the dreaded question of what are we going to eat tonight. There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to go through the week without thinking about a meal. If you're a wife, mom, or single girl you know if you get home and there's nothing made or ready to be made, then take out it is. Take out for me does not usually end well.
Makes grocery Shopping a Breeze
Can’t say enough about how much time I save at the grocery store when I have my list in hand. Carrying a printable, memo pad, or Keep App makes shopping quick. If you are familiar with your grocery store layout then your trip will be that much easier. Personally, I'm a paper girl so marking off each item ensures I don't go down the same aisle twice. Grab your shopping planner printable (click on image).
Cooking is a Joy
Cooking has become an enjoyable experience again. I don’t know about you but between working, taking care of a household, and trying to be superwomen for everyone you don’t have a ton of free time. Meal planning for me means I can set aside time to cook (on my selected days) or pull out my crockpot if I don’t feel like slaving in the kitchen.
Meal Planning Trial and Error Lesson
Over time I have learned the importance of keeping fool proof meals available (like pizza or burgers). They are perfect for those nights where you run through the food quicker than expected, you don’t feel like cooking, or you can’t cook. Ultimately have a hubby proof meal option that will free you up in case you need help. Hopefully in the near future, I’ll be using homemade freezer meals as our fool proof option, but I'm going to take it one day at a time.
Makes Budgeting Easier
After I have assessed our pantry and freezer according to our meal plan. I make my list of items needed for the month. Then I estimate the total cost typically I am right on target. Recently I decided it's important to decide on a grocery budget to be more intentional with our spending. I thought a monthly grocery budget of $180 which is $3 a day per person would be plenty to fulfill our household needs.
For the integrity of the budget in the coming months I think the cash envelope system maybe a great option. Cash envelopes just ensure I don’t go over budget during our trips throughout the month. If I’m over budget, I’ll have to find places to cut cost and still maintain our meal plan for the month.
January meal plan
- Fajita Chicken Alfredo
- Beans + Rice + Cornbread
- Chicken Marsala
- Pizza x 2
- Burger + Fries
- Tacos x 2
- Chicken + Broccoli Cheedar Soup
MY KEY LESSONS FROM MY FIRST MONTHLY MEAL PLAN
January was our first month doing monthly meal planning. Originally I was inspired to try monthly meal planning after watching The Encouraging Homeschool Mom, I figure if she could monthly meal plan for a family of 9 I could definitely do it for two. I was really excited to try out monthly meal planning I figured if nothing else it would reduce our need to go to the grocery store weekly.
- Stick with your household staple items. If you truly want to reduce your visits to the grocery store, do not try use this time to cheap out on staple products. For our first grocery trip in January I visited Aldi instead of our normal destination Food Depot, we ran into a few hiccups. We are avid milk, coffee, and creamer consumers I purchased them from Aldi figuring it would be no big deal. Unfortunately neither of us could stand the taste of the Aldi brand, which meant another trip to the grocery store and wasted food.
- Plan for a few extra meals. If you think you need 15 meals for the month plan for 20, better safe than sorry. I am pretty well versed in our eating habit but we went through several of the meals quicker than I expected. So I had to improvise, which landed me back at the grocery store (for trip number three).
- Double up on your staple meals. Make sure you purchase enough food to make your family favorite meals twice. Always great to have extra of staples that don't involve a lot of fresh produce things like Tacos, Chili, or Spaghetti these can all be made on the fly using items you have in your pantry. (If you live near an Aldi they have hard taco shells for $0.88 which is a great pantry item to have on hand.)
- Use your Kitchen Whiteboard for meal planning. I used our whiteboard which is inside of our kitchen pantry. I wrote all of our meals on it so there would be no questions about what we're going to eat. This also stopped us from eating out. Excluding our trip to Publix for subs when we ran out of food early and I had no backup ready.
FEBRUARY MEAL PLAN
- Chicken Roulade + Mashed Potatoes + Corn
- Chicken Quesadillas
- BBQ Chicken
- Turkey Burger
- Meatloaf + Mac & Cheese + Greens
- Chicken Philly
- Creamy Chicken + Squash Casserole
- Cheeseburger Soup
- Shrimp Fried Rice
- Chicken Wing
- Chicken Parmesan Skillet Pasta
- Sausage & Gravy Biscuits
In the future, I want to move to smaller portion meals to ensure we don’t have too many leftovers. In the meantime, I have tried splitting a package of meat and using it to make 2 separate meals. This provides us with some variety and eliminates waste. If you're cooking for 3 people or less I would recommend trying this out with your family, switch it up. Splitting your package of meat can also help stretch your meat longer.
For example, a pound of ground turkey (or beef) that I would normally use for spaghetti can instead make spaghetti and tacos. If you're concerned about being hungry, I recommend adding vegetables to create a more filling meal (chopped) spinach and (shredded) zucchini are great additions to both dishes and can be undetected by any picky eaters.