Recently I was discussing the topic of Meal Planning with a friend. She showed me her methods and gave me some suggestions. It helped me to get back into Meal Planning again. I've written about it previously and basically I'm a fan of the Monthly Meal Planning versus the Weekly Meal Planning.
I also like the idea of having a game plan for things that I do whether it be my daily schedule (e.g. read 15 minutes a day, read my Bible, do a load of laundry, declutter a room for 15 minutes, etc), but I don't like to be constrained to an actual time table (e.g. read Bible at 10 a.m., laundry at 10:30 a.m., etc.) And frankly, I couldn't even do that if I wanted to with young children around!
It's kind of like that with Meal Planning for me. I don't like to be constrained to a schedule that says every Monday must be Casserole, every Tuesday must be soup, every Wednesday must be pasta, etc. I tend to buck that kind of system and I know that in the end it's not going to work for me. So, I came up with this schedule that I hope will help me stay on track, but will also give me freedom within the plan.
Here's what it looks like:
"So Happy Together" Sunday (a meal that is a little more "put together" for Sunday lunch after church)
Mexican Monday (anything from Tortilla Soup to Tacos, etc.)
Tried and True Tuesday (a family favorite recipe)
Worked-Over Wednesday (a.k.a. "leftovers")
Thought-out Thursday (maybe a new meal or one that involves a little more time to prepare)
Freedom Friday (I can do whatever type of meal I want)
Simple Saturday (very basic recipe)
So why should meal plan? It's because I know it helps save money. If I am planning my meals around the store sales I will be buying the food at (hopefully) the lowest price. Meal planning is helpful whether you're single, married or have kids. If you're single or married without kids you can make a recipe and freeze the other half. Makes it pretty easy the next time that particular meal plan rolls around!
The second reason I meal plan is that it helps limit the stress when it comes to figuring What's For Dinner?!! (or breakfast and lunch)
The third reason is that it provides variety to the meals I'm fixing my family. It helps me to not get stuck in a rut.
So, what do I do? (or should I say, what am I working through right now...)
Well....let me tell ya! Like I said, I first sit down with the store circulars to see what's on sale. Then I choose recipes that have one of those sale items as their main ingredient(s). I can come up with several meals from the 2 store circulars of the stores I normally shop at. I can also have an idea of what I would like to make later in the month and wait to buy the ingredients the next week or so after looking to see if they are on sale.
After that, I print off my meal plan calendar for the month (labeled with the month and year so that several weeks down the road I can always redo that months worth of meals and save myself some planning time. Stores rotates their sales I believe about every 6 weeks or so--so try to keep track of your store's sale cycle and that would be a good time to pull out that month's meal plan again). I also pencil in my meals on my meal plan calendar. That way it's easier to switch around if necessary.
Then I make a list of all of the ingredients that I will need for all of those meals. That way, the next time I go to use that meal plan I will already know what ingredients I need and can look to see if I need to purchase any additional ingredients. In addition, I pull all the recipes for that month and paperclip them to my list of ingredients that I have typed up for the month. That way they are all in one spot.
Be sure to check out my Recipe section...It's a work in progress, but it will get you started.
I know that Meal Planning can initially be time consuming, but in the end it does save you time. I also am quite familiar with having a very small food budget that includes supplements, diapers, pull-ups, paper products, and oh, that's right! Food!
So, if you happen to use my meal plans (which I hope you can) you can rest assured that they will be budget friendly and have health in mind. My goal is to make our meals as healthy as possible overall and to do it on a budget of only $325 per month for a family of five. Yep, that will take some CREATIVITY and definitely some prayer but it.must.be.done.
Somewhere recently I read that frustrations are what help us to find a way to make something work better. Well, maybe I didn't read that actually. I might have just made it up, but regardless, it inspires me to keep pressing on even though I totally feel like quitting sometimes. (Like I could quit. Who wants to stop eating?) And, I know it would be easier to make that 325 last if I wasn't so concerned about buying healthy, but it's really important to me.
So, I constantly assess to see how I can make this work better, I pray about it and I see God work and provide.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any tips for meal planning? Please share!In addition, I will be implementing the "rule" to have meat only 2-3x/week. This will help save money, but will also be much healthier for us! On some of the nights we don't have a meat dish I will plan a bean dish of some sort because beans have a lot of protein in them.