Meal planning is the best thing you can do for your budget! The more you practice the better you will get. The better you get at meal planning; the better you will be at improvising and being flexible. Each normal week I have two goals. First, make healthy-yummy meals and snacks all week. Second, only going to the grocery store one time. To meet these goals I must set aside time to plan and organize.
Here are a few steps I use in creating our weekly meal plan:
1. Make a calendar for the week: Get out a piece of paper and make a chart. Label each day at the top then in each block write a B-for breakfast, L-for Lunch and S-for supper (or however you want to label it). Mark what days are you eating at home, what days require you eat on the go, what meal you will eat on the road or as a picnic. Just decide and you can change it up later.
2. Make a menu: Go through your chart and write in what you would like to eat for each meal. Even if you eat oatmeal every morning, write oatmeal in the B-for breakfast category. In the past, I have made Tuesday nights Deer night, Wednesday = Mexican night, and on like that. It makes planning fast. I try to do a pizza for a meal when I know my husband will be around so he can be in charge of putting it in the oven! Also, try to keep your menu simple. If you are doing and extravagant recipe each night that require separate ingredients, you will have a crazy high grocery bill. Try to make your menu flow. For instance, if you buy onions make sure you will use them in more than one dish that week.
3. Make a grocery list: After you have set up your menu, begin making a list of items you will need to pull this off. Make a pantry column of what you do have in your kitchen and a grocery column of what you need to purchase at the store. Physically check the items you have on your pantry column. Little mice (I mean someone in your house) might have eaten the last marshmallows or expiration dates may be past due.
4. Go to the grocery store: Try to eat something before you go to the grocery store. I tend to get more things that are not on my list if my belly is growling the whole time.
5. Stick to the plan: Sticking to your menu is a huge part of making a menu for the week. What’s the point if you decide you want something else, run to the store and buy all the ingredients for that meal. Sometimes (like in the 2nd trimester) it is avoidable. But try to stick to a plan before you give up on it. It may take a few weeks to get your grove, but following these steps will cut down on the pre-supper panic and let you enjoy making food with your family.
Meal planning and weekly schedule really go hand in hand! Without knowing your weekly schedule you are not ready to do a meal plan. Click here to read the past post about getting a weekly schedule planned.