You know I love to meal plan, and after having done it for nearly a decade, my week falls apart when I don’t! But I know this isn’t the case for many of you. If you aren’t used to it, it can seem overwhelming and a big waste of time. So, today I’m sharing 5 ways to simplify your meal planning process, to save you the most time and money possible.
1 Shop Your Kitchen
The first step in meal planning is to look through your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards. Take a look at what you have that you need to use up before it goes bad, and what you have stock piled that you can use. This won’t take you long, you will likely find something you forgot about. This will save you the most money because you will use things you have already paid for. Plan any meals around these items first, adding other ingredients you need for recipes to your grocery list.
2 Check The Flyers
Take a look at the weekly flyers for the stores you plan on going to. Check to see what meat and vegetables are on sale, and plan your dinners around these foods. This takes the headache of figuring dinners out away. You don’t have a choice; if pork chops are on sale, that’s what you are making this week! This along with what is already in your house, should cover just about all your dinners for the week. Fill in any gaps with family favourites.
3 Post It
Have your weekly meal plan posted somewhere in the kitchen. This is a great way to stop the “whats for dinner?” questions that kids seem to ask a million times a day! It’s also a good visual reminder to you too, especially if you need to remember to defrost something, or throw something in the slow cooker. And if you are blessed to have family members who help, having it posted means they know exactly what to make on each day. I only plan out my dinners, but planning out all your meals and even any baking or snacks is great too. Having a list posted of possible snacks is a great reminder to the kids what is in the fridge to snack on and what they should be eating before it goes bad and might help stop the “there’s nothing to eat” groans.
4 Meal Prep
Getting a head start on a meal can save you lots of time during the week. Set a side an hour one day during the week to chop some veggies, or marinate some meat so that it is ready to go right when you need it. You can go even further and cook some chicken to quickly add to salads, or bake some muffins to toss in the kids school lunches. This also helps out anyone else that might be cooking dinner for you, chopping the veggies ahead of time for a teen that is going to cook will make their job that much easier!
5 Stick To The Plan
This is the biggest part of all this! Why make a plan if you aren’t going to stick to it? You will save so much time and money by meal planning, but only if you stick to the plan. You can shop your kitchen and the sales all you want, and load up your fridge with prepped food, but if you turn around and buy dinner, you just wasted time and money. Stick to your list while at the grocery store too! Avoid impulse buys to save even more money.
I hope this helps you all to start meal planning, or to maybe make your current attempts easier. This really is the biggest money saver for my family. I feel totally lost on the rare weeks that I don’t meal plan! It can take some time to get into the routine of planning ahead, but with a little effort you will save time in the long run and save money too. And that little bit of time you spend planning ahead for the week, doesn’t compare to how much time is wasted starring into the fridge every night wondering what to make for dinner.