I know what you’re thinking, making a meal plan is the worst! Actually, making a month long meal plan is the most stress reducing mom job project I have ever done for myself. At first the idea of writing out the meals for the month sounded super daunting and then there was always the worry that- what if a certain meal doesn’t sound appetizing on the day it was assigned? Well, have now fear! I have the first steps to having success creating a meal plan on a budget figured out just for you!
First- Write Down What You Know:
Grab a pencil and paper then write down every meal you had this week. Then use these questions to grow that list even further.
- What your favorite meals you like to make or eat.
- What are your go-to meals?
- Which meals take a couple minutes to whip together?
- What meals do you make by heart without a recipe?
- Which meals have your made that the kids actually eat!
Second- Look at Your Calendar:
I like to look at my monthly calendar before I make my meal plan to accommodate our busy schedules. Take note on which days require certain type of meals by answering these questions:
- Which days are the busiest with after school activities?
- What day(s) have evening activities?
- Will everyone be home for dinner?
- Will we be able to sit down and eat?
- Does this meal need to be eaten on the go?
- Does this meal need to sit in the crockpot for a couple hours?
Third- Meal Plan:
Now that we’ve written down all the foods you know you like to make and you know what your week looks like- let’s plan your meal!
1.) What do you already have in your pantry that could be used into meals this week? Write down those meals.
2.) Which meal requires fresh food? Use those meals first section of your meal planning period. What meals could use frozen items? I usually save those meals for the end of the time period/month.
3.) Have a jam-packed day? You can do one of two things. 1.) I use my handy-dandy Crockpot. For more on my Crockpot love-affair, head here. Using my Crockpot means the meal cooks all day so everyone can eat when they are ready to eat. OR 2.) I decide the meal for that day is something can be whipped together quickly.
4.) Have a “Night Out with Friends” scheduled? On these nights, my family eats leftovers. I don’t have to cook AND I don’t have to worry about cooking for others on my night off. Win-win!
5.) Speaking of leftovers, don’t be afraid of them! I know some people can’t do leftovers. Although eating leftovers isn’t my favorite- I don’t like to waste food either. The solution- we have “Restaurant Night” which is a totally different. Yes, we clean out the fridge of all the foods left over from the week. Then, the kids get to pick whatever foods they want and that’s their dinner! Win- win. No baking dishes for you and kids pick their meal. Even if it’s leftover pancakes- food gets eaten and everyone is happy!
Fourth- Grocery Shopping on a Budget:
Write a detailed grocery list of all the things you need for your meals and stick to the list while grocery shopping! After you’ve stuck to writing out a grocery list, you can anticipate the grocery bill and avoid the grocery store too! Or- you can order your groceries online! I’ve recently become a fan of online grocery shopping and holy- hana- such a life saver! Not to mention- when shopping on a budget you can see what items are in your online grocery cart and if you need to spend less, delete some items out of the cart. Yahoo!
The above reasons are my favorite reasons to meal plan. Now, granted- I still go to the store plenty of times during the month- BUT I know what our family is eating. I know what we have in the fridge and the pantry AND I know what I’m spending a month on food. SO the following month I can adjust the budget and spend more or less on food depending on what we went through the month before. More often than not- we don’t go through all of the food I planned on. We have leftovers or we use some meals or side dishes for potluck.
The key to making a meal plan (however long you go for) is being flexible. There will always be a day when the meal you planned doesn’t work with your schedule, or the weather. Or, you just forgot to defrost the meat! Don’t be afraid to mix and match dinner plans from other meals. I have found, however that once I start mixing items- I have to pay close attention to which meals I’m playing around with so I have a complete meal for another day! That’s why step number one is so important! Write everything down, know beforehand what’s already in your pantry, go shopping with a detailed list, stick to the list BUT be flexible.
This method of meal planning may not work for you, so here’s a couple other ideas:
Jennica wrote a very similar article presenting another way of meal planning with: “No Buy November”. Check out her articles for the Why and the How she makes grocery shopping for the month work for her family too!
Need another great approach to meal planning with a detailed food list? Head to my fellow-Canadian friend Kristen’s post here.
Meal Planning is something I’m so glad I adopted in our house months ago. I hope this article encourages you to look into your pantry and meal plan yourself.
Best of luck mama!