If you're frustrated about spending too much money eating out, give meal planning a try. When you plan your family's dinners ahead of time, you save money and typically, you eat healthier. Try these tips to start meal planning today.
Meal plans are a great way to keep our nights from getting too crazy. They add a solid foundation for healthier meals at home and a less stressful experience cooking.
Whether you’ve been at it for years, or you’ve never made a meal plan in your life, here are a few great ways to start meal planning today!
How to start meal planning
Check your stock
Make a list of everything in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to get an idea of what you can make with ingredients you already have. This is a big first step and could take you a bit of time to get through, but that’s ok!
Going through this once now means you only need to add or subtract things you buy or use to keep it up to date, making your meal planning much easier down the road. Taking inventory will also save you money, as you’ll never buy duplicates again.
I find that I purchase the same pantry items over and over again. You, too? Once you have that list made, you can use it down the road to replenish staples.
Keep a list of favorites
Ask each member of your family to come up with a list of their favorite meals, and don’t forget to include your own! Compile them into one big list. I call this my family's Master Meal List.
This will not only give you a huge head start on coming up with meals to make but will also keep everyone happy with meals they love! Pull from this list when there’s nothing that inspires you while planning, that’s exactly what it’s there for.
There's a reason my family has Taco Tuesday every week (sometimes twice!). That's a huge favorite here. We just vary the type of meat each week.
Use your freezer
Don’t be afraid to dig everything out of your freezer once in a while. This helps avoid items getting lost in the back and being forgotten.
The freezer is a great tool in meal planning, and should be used well. A freezer can hold premade meals for busy nights, keep meats fresher longer, and make sure you always have veggies to go with your main course. Be a friend to your freezer, and it won’t let you down!
Use weekly ads, shopping lists, and your calendar
Once a week, set time aside to take over the table and spread out your papers. Get the ad for your preferred grocery store, your shopping list, and your calendar out to get planning. The ad from your local grocery store will help you maximize your savings by planning around sale cycles. Doing this means you’ll spend less than you ever thought possible, without sacrificing quality!
Your calendar will help you keep track of busy nights where an easy meal is needed or nights where you might have more time to make a more elaborate meal. Taking your calendar into account can mean the difference between a perfect meal plan, or one you constantly have to revise.
Keeping your shopping list handy will mean you’re ready to hit the store as soon as you’re done planning. No time like the present to send that plan into action!
Meal planning help us keep our lives running smoothly, avoiding things like arguing over what’s for dinner or unplanned nights at the drive-through. I find that meal planning helps us save money and eat healthier. These simple steps will get you on your way to planning your family's meals.