There is nothing worse than going to the grocery store hungry — except for maybe an impromptu trip to the grocery store to buy a week’s worth of groceries with no list in hand. That is the stuff nightmares are made of.
I know I usually share recipes when I post, but today, I thought I would share one of the biggest ways I save money: meal planning!
I’m slightly neurotic about planning — if you follow me on Instagram, I share my weekly spreads in my Erin Condren life planner. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a planner. I also am a Pinaholic — any fellow Pinterest-obsessed moms out there? Holla!! My planner and Pinterest are my two bestest friends when it comes to sitting down to meal plan. I have a spot in my planner for recipes for the week and a meal plan board on Pinterest for me to easily pull up recipes on my tablet or smartphone when I go to make dinner, breakfast, etc.
Why do I meal plan?
With three kids, after school activities, weekly family get-togethers at my in-laws’ house, I cannot make dinner on the fly. I don’t have the time to make multiple trips to the grocery store to grab something quickly or go out to eat multiple times per week. Fast food restaurants end up costing about $25 for four of us for lunch/dinner and sit-down restaurants are over $40. I can go to the grocery store and get food for a whole week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner for under $200. And that’s NOT shopping deals or remembering to use coupons all the time and making most everything from scratch. Meal planning saves us money!
Without further ado, here are some of my tips to become a Meal Planning Master:
How often do you want to go the grocery store? For me, weekly is perfect. When it was just Nick and me eating, I went every other week. But my fridge would be overflowing if I tried to fit two week’s worth of groceries in it now.
Obviously, you’ll have to know what you can make or want to make for your meal plan. I used to have my recipes listed on an Excel file, but now I like to use my Pinterest boards because I like to see the recipes to decide if I want to make them.
One thing I get asked a lot is how I plan for a month at a time. How do I know that I won’t be craving XYZ instead of what I have planned? My answer is that my meal plan isn’t set in stone. I can still change it before I go to the store. However, I try and plan a variety of foods so that the family gets a little of everything. When I was first married, I only knew how to make a handful of things and we got sick of eating the same things over and over again. This is why variety is so important to me. I don’t have to worry about a spur-of-the-moment run to the grocery store because I can’t stomach tuna casserole for the third week in a row. I try to cook beef, ham/pork, chicken, and one meatless night each week. I haven’t really had any complaints from the family yet — I always ask them if there is a particular thing they would like to have during the month, so it really isn’t an issue that comes up a lot.
PLAN AROUND SALES/COUPONS
This is a big one for a lot of people that I don’t use as much. I do get coupons from Kroger in the mail and I do incorporate them into what I’ll pick for meals a lot of times, but I don’t typically save boatloads of money because of them. However, every little bit counts.
WRITE IT DOWN!
I hate wasting food. I hate when I have to throw out foods that have gone bad. Wasting food is money down the drain. So I have made a habit of writing down exactly the foods that I need for the week and then I take to my pantry and fridge and make sure I don’t have ingredients on hand already. I used to be especially horrible about having pounds of butter in my fridge because I couldn’t remember what I had. I use sticky notes until I make my final grocery list. I also like to write down the recipes for the week on a dry erase board on the fridge. I tend to stick with certain recipes for certain days because we have themed nights (we’re dorks!), but you can also pick and choose what you want to make based on how much time you have that day or what you’re craving.
I hope these tips will come in handy for y’all. Meal planning can seem a little daunting, but once you start doing it, it is so hard to stop. But why would you want to? Saving money is the best!