Meal Planning 101

My husband and I are constantly on the go. Our evenings are booked up most nights with side hustles, band practices, and church functions. And that’s not to mention all the errands we have to run in between and the normal household chores! People often ask me how we do it. Do we survive off of fast food? NO! While this could be very easy to slip into, we have found this to be bad for our health and our budget. In just four fast food dinners, we have blown our food budget for the whole month. We decided to save the eating out for days when we are traveling and have no choice or for special meals to treat ourselves.

So how do we do it? The answer is simple: meal planning. While I know the concept of meal planning is overwhelming to some, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. That’s why this blog post outlines the steps I follow each month to help me stay on budget, save time, and eat healthy.

  1. Identify what meals you need to plan for: My husband and I know that certain nights of the week, we won’t be cooking. For example, we have family pizza night with my side of the family every Monday, and typically on Thursdays my husband has band practice, so I either have dinner with family or eat leftovers. I also know that I am fine eating cereal each morning, and that we stick to sandwiches or leftovers for lunch each day. You can plan this out a whole month at a time, or by a week or two, depending on how you budget your shopping. I find it’s easier for me to do it by the month so I only have to make on big shopping trip each month, and then can just make short runs for fresh produce, milk, and bread.

  2. Make a list of recipes your family likes to eat, or recipes you would like to try out. Make sure to consider the length of time it takes to prepare each meal in comparison with the average amount of time you have for cooking. You don’t want too many labor intensive recipes if you find yourself constantly on the go, but you may be able to work one in for Sunday dinner.

  3. In your list from point one, fill in the meals you included in your recipe list. I usually try vary meat and flavor types. Theme nights can be helpful too! Tuesday nights are usually pasta nights for us because we have less time to cook. Make sure to plan your side dishes as well! This does not have to be anything crazier than microwaving rice and opening a can of green beans. Make sure to also consider which dishes make a lot of food. My husband and I usually deem Sunday as “leftover day” to clean out the fridge. Also, don’t feel the need to eat a different meal each day for 30 days! You can rotate recipes every few weeks, or fix an items with a different type of seasoning to mix it up.

  4. Make your shopping list. Look at your meals you have planned and compare with your pantry. See which staple items you need to restock on, as well as what items you need specifically for recipes. I also like to use Ibotta as I’m planning my shopping list to see if there are rebates on any of the items I need to buy--but don’t fall into the trap of buying things you don’t need!

  5. Get shopping and cooking!

I hope this helps! I would also suggest finding a great planner, if you don’t have one already. I love my Dream Planner by Horacio Printing, because it have a dot grid for each week, where I put my meal plan. A dry erase board can make tracking the weekly menu easier as well. See my blog post on command centers for more information on how to use this to your advantage!

Happy cooking!