Do you ever feel overwhelmed with what to make for dinner? You are making the same meals over and over again. Your kids are sick of them, you are sick of them. You just don’t have time to plan anything and don’t have the energy to even think about it.
This is where meal planning is the perfect solution for you.
Meal planning will help you save both time AND money.
What is meal planning?
Before we get into what meal planning is and I give you all of my meal planning tips. I first need to explain what meal planning is and how it works.
I define meal planning as you only have to have to answer that annoying question “what’s for dinner?” ONCE per week! … And when you become a pro only once per month! Doesn’t that sound amazing?!
To break it down, meal planning is the process of sitting down with a cup of coffee and planning out the meals you and your family will eat… for the whole week. It sounds complicated, but trust me, after reading (or watching) this you will be a pro!
Shop your pantry before going to the store
The first step to meal planning is to go through your pantry, fridge and freezer.
Check the fridge to see if there is anything that is about to expire or needs to be used up. If you have food that is about to go bad then we want to use these meals up FIRST. One of the ways meal planning saves money is that it helps prevent food waste. Wasting money on food is one of my biggest pet peeves and I’m sure it frustrates you too!
Next, See what meats you have in the freezer from when you stocked up when there was a sale. Do you have some chicken thighs deep in the freezer that you can marinate and throw on the grill? That is a super easy meal with a starch and veggies on the side!
If you are trying to come up with different ideas for lunches or dinners, I have a 7-day meal plan that I’ve created!
The meal plan guide comes with 7 meal ideas with recipe cards, a shopping list to buy everything in the meal plan as well as printables for you to use later. Download yours today!
Get Your 7-Day Meal Plan Here!
Keep the family involved
A great way to get your spouse and kids on board with meal planning is to let them pick out one or two meals each week.
This will not only help you to come up with ideas when you are stumped but also allow them to have a meal during the week that they are really excited about.
When its Wednesday and Susie isn’t thrilled about taco salads for dinner she can look at the meal plan on the fridge and know that tomorrow is HER meal that she picked out. Stuffed shells which are her FAVORITE!!
Now, what do you do when you are so excited to start implementing the meal plan and you ask your spouse and kids what they want for their meals and they just shrug their shoulders?
So discouraging, I know. But don’t give up!
Have a recipe binder for when they are stumped (I’ll also use this when I am stumped). When I am writing my meal plan and tell my husband he can pick three dinners for the week and I get the “I don’t care” then out comes the trusty recipe binder!
This binder is filled with pages of recipes that I’ve printed from Pinterest, family recipes, ones I’ve torn out of magazines, and my grandma’s old recipe cards. My husband will flip through and go “Ooooo yes! This sounds good! Please make chicken carbonara”
Success! I will also flip through the binder when I am stumped as well. I will even write notes on the pages like “pairs well with peas”, “add spinach”, “Jayme really liked”. This is such a great way to get ideas when you are stumped!
Another great way to plan your meals is to have theme nights. Having weekly theme nights will not only save you a ton of time when writing out your meal plan but are also a lot of fun and bring tradition!
Don’t get overwhelmed with making them super complicated, the goal is to make them simple, delicious and fun. Here are some examples to get you thinking:
• Slow Cooker Sunday
• Meatless Monday
• Taco Tuesday
• Grilling Wednesday
• Breakfast for Dinner Thursday
• Pasta Night Friday
• Take out Saturday
Use leftover food for your next meal
Using leftover food is an easy way to stretch your groceries and save a ton of time and money. Whether it’s for tomorrow’s lunches or dinner, using leftover chicken, veggies or rice is an easy way to rollover groceries.
Leftovers often get a bad reputation for being boring the next day or not taste as good. That doesn’t need to be the case!
I will sometimes make extra rice knowing I can use that rice in a casserole for tomorrow’s dinner to create a whole new meal with a totally different flavor. This saves time because I don’t have to cook the rice again and also saves money because we all know how cost-effective casseroles are!
Same Ingredients for multiple meals
When I am writing out my weekly meal plan I will often choose ingredients that can create multiple meals.
I focused on this when I was writing out the 7-DAY MEAL PLAN for you.
For example, flour tortillas are one of the key ingredients in enchiladas as well as chicken caesar wraps. Two totally different flavors but only buying that ingredient once and reducing food waste because there is nothing worse than only using half a pack of tortillas and then going to waste because you didn’t have anything else to use them on.
Have a loosely structured meal plan
Meal planning often has a bad reputation for not being flexible and set in stone. That is simply not the case!
Plan out the meals for the week and buy all the ingredients but the days can move around depending on your schedule, a meeting running late.
Or may on Saturday you wrote out your meal plan and have Chicken Tortilla Soup listed for Friday night but on Monday that hot bowl of Mexican goodness is all you can think about. Move it around and switch up the days!
Shop only once a week
Having a meal plan will help you to shop only once a week. Do you go to the store every day or two? I get countless comments on my Youtube videos and emails from people saying that they go to the store every single time that they cook dinner at home. Their fridge is always empty. They don’t shop for the week and wouldn’t even know where to start.
This is exactly why meal planning is so great. Yes, it may be a little scary at first and overwhelming but stick to it. I have full meal planning and meal prep modules in my course HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES.
Going to the grocery store only once a week will do three things for you:
• Limit your impulse purchases each time you go to the store.
• Give you a game plan for the week and all of the food that you will need.
• Take away the need to get delivery when you open the fridge and see that it’s empty… because it won’t be empty!
Have a back-up plan
Let’s be honest, we all know that we can have the best of intentions to stick to our meal plan but sometimes life happens.
If a meeting runs late at work and you don’t have time (or energy) to make the dinner you planned, having a backup plan is key.
Come up with a few recipes or meals that you always keep those ingredients on hand.
One of those may be the meal we talked about in the beginning: chicken from the freezer, frozen veggies and rice. It’s super easy and all of those ingredients you can keep on hand at all times.
I also recommend having some easy snacks and meals for the kids on hand at all times as well. They don’t have to be the healthiest meals but chicken tenders on hand may be a lifesaver!
Now that we’ve thrown out the misconception that meal planning is hard, I’m so excited for you to get started!
Meal planning will give you will have more YOU time.
Since you won’t be spending as much time going to the store every other day, going back and forth on what to have for dinner, you’ll get more time to relax and spend time with the family.
Don’t forget to download your FREE 7-DAY MEAL PLAN!
Ways to save money:
Here at Freedom In A Budget, I am all about saving money! Here are some of the EASY ways that I save money:
• Fetch Rewards is a free grocery savings app that rewards you just for snapping pictures of your receipts. That’s really it. Free gift cards on groceries on thousands of products every day, no matter where you get your groceries. Just scan your receipts and get gift cards from places like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, Ulta, Applebees. Use code QHKBH to earn 2,000 points ($2)!
• Rakuten/Ebates: Rakuten is my to go way to earn Cash Back from over 2,500 stores like Macy’s, Amazon, Sephora, Walmart and much more. Join Rakuten today for free, and you’ll get a $10 Cash Bonus to get you started! Every three months, you’ll get a Big Fat Check in the mail or a PayPal payment just for shopping.
• CIT Bank offers high-yield savings accounts that provide a safe, secure way to grow your savings.
• M1 Finance is an easy to use brokerage platform that allows you to invest in Fractional Shares and auto reinvest!
• Honey: Stop wasting money- Honey finds you the Internet’s best discount codes.
• Budget Templates: Excel budget templates with pre-populated categories and formulas to keep you on track with hitting your financial goals.