When it comes to taking care of my home, I must admit a large portion of my time is spent deciding what to feed my family. All three of my children (ages 8, 6, and 1) have various yet distinct food preferences. My husband must eat healthy to keep up with his demanding military lifestyle. And me? Well, I could survive on one meal a day consisting of pop-tarts and gummy bears. Problem is, now that I am knocking on the door of thirty years old, my unhealthy heating is finally catching up to me (and not in a good way). So how do I feed a family of 5 and keep everyone happy and healthy? I meal plan on a budget.
For a long time, my idea of planning dinner consisted of me rummaging through the pantry an hour before my husband came home from work and rushing to prepare dinner before he walked through the front door. Not only was the rushing around bad on my nerves, but doing everything last minute became harder to do after we had our third baby. Our new baby was demanding and needed my full attention every second of every day. For that reason, I barely had any time to do anything if I didn’t plan and prepare for it in advance. For the first year after he was born, we ate fast food for dinner more times than I would like to admit.
After our last move, I decided it was time to develop a new system of preparing meals for our family. I created a meal plan chart and started weekly meal planning. I determined that eating out less and incorporating more healthy food options would be the best option for us. As we transitioned into our new way of living, I became less stressed and more productive throughout the day knowing breakfast, lunch, and dinner was already taken care of.
Every Saturday, I sit down to plan our meals for the upcoming week. Planning our meals in advance has helped me to save money on groceries and stick to my weekly food budget. Because I no longer overspend on food that we don’t need, I save more and less food goes to waste. When it comes to meal planning, I only purchase a food item if I have a plan to use it. Before I go to the grocery store, I create a grocery list. As I shop, I stick to the list.
Luckily for me, my husband actually likes to cook. If he comes home from work and sees that I haven’t started dinner, he will take it upon himself to prepare something for us. Since we both cook throughout the week, I try to keep our pantry stocked with the basic necessities we may need on any given day such as rice, chicken broth, and seasonings. Keeping our kitchen filled with our favorite food essentials ensures that we always have something to prepare – even if it isn’t planned.
When people think of weekly meal prep, the idea of it all can seem a little intimidating. There is no right or wrong way to meal plan, so once you give it a try, keep doing what works for you. When I meal plan, I try to keep the process as simple as possible. Once a week, I spend 30 minutes completing our meal plan and writing my grocery list. After my list is written, I try my best to only go to the grocery store once or twice a week. So far, I have experienced nothing but great results.
Are you considering weekly meal planning to save time and money? Here are 3 simple steps to help you to get started.
How to Meal Plan in 3 Easy Steps
- Create a simple chart or meal planning template. You will need to leave room to write 35 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks for all 7 days of the week). Your meal chart will serve as your menu for the week. If you need a meal plan template, you can click here to download the meal plan sheets I use.
- Plan your meals and snacks. Now it’s time to plan your weekly menu! Before you begin, take inventory of the food you already have at home. What meals can you create with the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry? Write those meals into your meal chart. After you have taken inventory of your kitchen, fill in any empty meal days with healthy recipes your family knows and loves.
- Create a corresponding grocery list. Once your meal plan template is full of meal ideas, determine what groceries you will need to complete each meal. Write down each ingredient you need on a corresponding grocery list. What meals on your menu have similar ingredients? What food items can your purchase in bulk to help save money? To help you stick to your budget, only purchase foods that are on your designated grocery list.
And that’s it!