Meal planning is my absolute jam! I got into a great routine of planning, shopping, and cooking just a few months before my son was born. It really helped me to go into motherhood with a good basis of how to feed my family consistently and on a budget!
Before we get started, here are the materials I use to stay organized. I have a small journal that I keep in the diaper bag with my favorite pen. That way I can always jot down recipe ideas or things we need when I’m out and about. And I keep everything I need for shopping day in one convenient place in my home. The only other thing I use when meal planning is a whiteboard to list the week’s menu and keep track of things we are running out of or that we need to grab on our next shopping trip. Without further adieu, here are my best tips and tricks!
MAKE A MENU
Plan, plan, plan! The worst question in my house is, “What’s for dinner?” So, instead of getting irritated with the question, I choose to plan our meals a week in advance and write them on a whiteboard hanging in the pantry! I typically plan for Monday-Saturday, knowing Sunday is a day we eat out, go to my parent’s house or just have sandwiches. Also, if you’re someone who really desires a specific diet or type of foods to be served in your home, making a menu eliminates all the guesswork and headache when dinnertime comes around!
STRATEGIZE BASED ON YOUR GROCERY STORE
The next tip that I mastered last Spring is writing my grocery list in order of the store I’ll be shopping at. I write the items I need in categories, so as to make my shopping trip quick and streamlined. Produce is always first, for some reason that’s where I like to start and it’s almost always in the very front of the store. Then I just go around the store in my mind and write out everything I need based on where I’ll find it! The most helpful thing about this is that when you’re shopping with your little one(s) in tow, it makes the trip go so much more quickly.
SHOP ONCE A WEEK
This is vital. Go to the grocery one time each week. Pick a day to be your shopping day and do it every single week. Not only does this keep you from running to the store every night for an ingredient or two, it will save you LOADS of money in the long run. The more times you go to the store, the easier it is to spend way more than you intend to or that your budget allows! Not to mention, if you’re a super busy mama, maybe you work outside the home or have lots of crazy kids to look after…one grocery trip a week will soon be your jam, too!
ALWAYS PLAN FOR LEFTOVERS
Choose one day a week to plan to eat leftovers. If you’re a bigger family, you may not have enough leftovers until closer to the end of the week but my family of three always has plenty. If you never plan for your leftovers, you’ll end up throwing them out and wasting food which translates to hard-earned money! On this same note, plan the nights you know you’ll be eating out. Just because you’re meal planning doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your family traditions, whether it be Mexican food on Friday nights or a meal with friends after church on Sunday. Budget for it and list it on your weekly meal plan!
“EAT THE PANTRY” WEEK
Every few weeks (or as often as necessary) I base meal planning on what I already have in my fridge and pantry. It is inevitable, even with my very methodic planning, the meals don’t always get eaten at the time they’re supposed to or we just have plenty of ingredients leftover to make it a second time. I go into my pantry and refrigerator, take inventory, and start jotting down meal ideas. I can almost always plan an entire week of meals without needing to buy anything but maybe some chicken, ground beef and a little produce. I make a tiny shopping trip and we eat what we have! This is a great way to save money on a tighter week and also helps to keep you from wasting so much food or letting it go bad.
BUDGET TO EAT OUT ON SHOPPING DAY
Shopping day can be stressful, especially if you have children along for the ride. Plan to eat out or grab lunchables on that day for lunch. There’s not a lot more frustrating than spending the whole morning shopping for food only to arrive at home realizing you don’t know what you’re going to eat for lunch! Just plan for whatever will make that day easier, mamas!
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Getting into a good routine of meal planning can take time. You may not feel like you really made a difference or alleviated any stress the first time or first few times you put it into action. Just be patient and work out the kinks as you go. You’ll be a meal planning pro in no time, no matter whether you’re a Type A mama or not!
Did I miss anything? What are your best tips?
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