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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Money and time saving meal planning

I really dislike shopping with my kids. It's a lot of, "Mom! I want that!", "Mom, I'm tired.", "Can we go home and play Mario Kart yet?" Or even just straight up "Waaaahhhhh" from being too tired. So I decided to plan my meals ahead. Anywhere from 2 weeks to a whole month, depending on my financial status. I have a list of meals that I know my family loves. I have a list of things we need that I've been writing as things diminish in my pantry and I know we use often.

Knowing your family and their favorites is the most important part. Knowing your schedule is another important factor. I work part time. My husband has a time-consuming Lego hobby. Plus there are the daily tasks and chores of keeping house and home schooling. On the nights I work, my husband has to do the cooking. On the nights I'm off - I pick it up. So when I'm picking meals I have to pick the easy ones for his nights alone. I also try to incorporate things we get on WIC. We get beans, brown rice, cheese, fruits and vegetables, among other things. All healthy stuff. Beans and rice are one of my easy choices for my husband to cook. He likes to add sausage and onion to it.  None of us really like brown rice. So to compromise, we mix half white and half brown. Even my kids love it. It also makes the bag of white rice stretch farther.

When I'm planning, I also check the sales and try to match my meals with them. I print coupons based on what we use and try to match them with stores sales.

So here's how you get started. And yes... It's going to take time and effort, but it pays off later.

Start by making a list. Write meals that you know you and your family eat regularly and love. Know your ingredients or list them with the meals. I keep mine in a notebook but you could use a binder. Especially with the clear page covers so you can just flip through while planning.

Step two, is knowing your budget. We know when big bills are due and plan around them. I prefer to plan at least two weeks at a time, but maybe you can only do a week per stretch. Once you know your budget, count the days and pick a dinner for each one. Throw in a couple of lazy meals. Some days you aren't going to want to cook. So make it something easy to put together or make that the take out night. Either way, writing it into your list will remind you. Then pick breakfast and lunch items to fill in. I always keep peanut butter on hand. Tuna works well too. Snack things like chips, cookies, desserts - whatever little things you need to have on hand get added to your list next.
Now if you're really on a roll and want it super organized, take it a step further and actually list the items by category i.e.- meats, frozen, can aisle, snack aisle... You get the idea? I don't often have the patience and I'm still getting used to my stores here, but sometimes I aim for the ballpark. This makes your trip easier and faster. Also organizing your coupons to match your aisles helps too.
Now the fun part (not) of shopping! Coming home, you might have a kitchen looking something like this picture.
Another thing to keep in mind is how much storage space you have around your kitchen. We are fortunate enough to have a large pantry. But we are limited in freezer space. We don’t buy a large amount of freezer foods at once. Sometimes we have to go back to the store for things like bread, fresh veggies and fruits, or more freezer items.

Sometimes when I buy onions and bell peppers, I will chop them up and keep them in the freezer. Just remember that when you pull them out to cook not to let them stay thawed. They can get a little mushy. Cooking them right away tastes better.
I hope this is helpful in getting you started on meal planning. Be sure and leave a comment on anything you think I missed! Love hearing from you all.


  1. Great ideas. I am in desperate need of this in my home. It is a good thing to keep recipes on hand. Also you may check flyers from the stores and get coupons together in same binder so you can plan out your shopping trip. Remember to avoid the pitfalls of the stores by ONLY buying what's on the list. But on your list (because we are human) leave a couple blank spaces incase you pick up extras. Put them on the list and make sure after you got your 2 extras, you buy nothing else. This will keep you on budget and not overload your space. Which I have very little.