Today’s Experiment: Meal Plans. I am a very organized person. I like my lists. I like my calendar. I love crossing things off of my list and calendar when they are accomplished. Strangely, the thought of planning out meals did not occur to me until after the birth of my child. This little bit of planning has saved our family money as well as a little stress!
This weekly ritual takes me ten minutes to accomplish. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but normally this is because I’m doing it during the commercials of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Sometimes I plan out all our favorite foods. Often I’ll check the refrigerator and cabinets so see what needs to be used up and plan meals around those. In any case, stress is relieved and money is saved.
How does this save money? Think about it. How many times a week do you run to the store for that item that you forgot? Or, if you are like me and have a burning desire to cook something specific: how many times to do you run to the store during the week to pick up three extra ingredients that you didn’t have at the house? Or, how many times a week do you eat out because you are too tired at the end of the day to figure out what you are going to eat for dinner?
All of the above? Yes, I’m right there with you.
Planning meals saves me the hassle of running to the store every couple days. I go once a week and buy everything we’ll need. Gone are the days where 5pm rolls around and I have no idea what I’m going to make. In fact, by 5pm, I’m probably already done prepping dinner.
Previously, we spent a bit more on food during the week. But this was because I’d make two or three trips and was easily swayed by ads or junk food that I found there. Now, I stick to what I need for the week (okay, with maybe a little bit of wiggle room for a chocolate bar) and save money.
I have a friend who plans her meals monthly and only go to the store once a month. Crazy, huh? I’m not there. I go weekly and plan weekly. But if you want to plan monthly, how do you get started?
Here is an idea that I’ve gleaned from Passionatehomemaking.com that I’ve tried to implement myself. (It just doesn’t seem to work for me, at least in my time of life right now.)
- Give yourself a category for each day of the week. For example, one could be “Soup,” another “Italian.” These are genres of food that your family enjoys. If you want, one day could be “Leftovers” or “Restaurant” if you like to do that regularly.
- Under those headings, write down as many different recipes that you already know how to make. Make sure there are at least four for each heading. As an example, check this out:
Three Bean Chili
- Assign a category to each day of the week. On Tuesdays, you have soup. On Thursdays, you have a pasta.
- From the list under your categories, choose one recipe for each day of the month. On the first Tuesday of the month, you’ll have Three Bean Chili. On the second Tuesday, Sausage Kale. And so on!
- Based on the recipes, write out a monthly or weekly shopping list.
Now this idea only addresses suppers, but you can add lunches or breakfasts to the list as well, using the same idea. Or, if you are like us, just eat leftovers for lunch, and oatmeal and fruit every day for breakfast.
I want to know your meal planning ideas. Help me become more organized. What do YOU do to plan your meals?