Meal Planning

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

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.


Kim said...

I've found that planning my menu out for the week really reduces what I actually buy. I plan for the month, but each weekend shop for that upcoming week.
All it takes is one day per month to really sit down and think about what you're going to eat. If you dedicate that time, you'll save so much (time, $, hassle).
Anna got me on this over a year ago! Keep up the good ideas. I like that you've labeled each day!
Kim said...

Yes, that's true! Forgot to add that. Thanks! Anna was the one that encouraged me to start back into it again! My problem is making the money last through the month, but I'm determined to try to find cheaper, healthier recipes to make this work!
Thanks! My inspirations usually come to me while I'm nursing Caleb. Then I just hope I can remember all the ideas until I can get to the computer! :)
I'm sure this meal planning thing will be a revolution as I continue new ideas and throw out old! :)

Big D and Me said...

Thank you so much for the links and ideas - I cannot wait to try some "themed" dinners like you have - I'm hoping it gives me a little renewed excitement about making dinner - might be fun for the kids too.
Jennifer said...

You are welcome, Jennifer! Having themes has seemed to help keep me on track a bit. Of course, I still stay flexible because life happens along the way, right? :)

Thanks for browsing around here--made my day!!! :) said...

I received a great question from a reader so I thought I would post it here (as well as my answer).

Hi Becky-
You visited my site: earlier in the week.

I had a question for you. I believe you mentioned you do meal planning
by the month.

Do you also buy groceries by the month?

I'm wondering how this works with fruits and veggies.

I feel like I run out of them at the end of the week, but if I buy more
than a week's worth they go bad before I do

Hi Jennifer,
Depending on our finances...:) I sometimes do end up doing a big grocery trip for the month and then only get milk or something later if I need it. We use a lot of frozen fruits/veggies that I either stock up on when they're on sale or this past summer we picked several varieties of fruit at local farms (apples, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries). This summer we hope to add peaches and cherries to the list. So, that tides us over if I run out of money (which pretty much always happens b/c we have a very tight grocery budget for now).
I would love to save an amount each week for fresh fruit/veggies, but is hard to pull off.
One thing I usually do is look at the store circulars (for me, Meijer and Kroger). Then I can usually pull quite a few meals out of those 2 adds and that will cover most of the meals for the month. Ideally, I would do my month plan of what I would like to feed the family and then go weekly or bi-weekly and then only buy the ingredients I need each week that are on sale.
SO...after I do my monthly planning I for sure get all the ingredients I will need for the coming week or two and then hope to go back weekly to get the remaining ingredients for a week or two at a time. If you don't have as tight of a budget as we do, this would probably work for you...I hope I’m explaining it sufficiently.
Do you use coupons? I have posts about that. Coupons have helped a lot even though I don't use as many as I used to b/c I'm more careful about what we eat now. However, I still stack coupons occasionally at whole foods.
The reason I like to do it by the month is b/c I already have in my head an idea of all the ingredients I will need so then I can try to only buy them on sale as the month goes on.

Readers: If you would like a word document of what I do, please contact me at becky(at) purposefulhomemaking (dot) com. On there I list the gredients and the recipe name and a link to the actual recipe if it's not one I have in my recipe box.
Hope that helps! :)


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