Meal planning is a great tool for saving money, saving time and eating healthier. By planning your meals a week or two in advance, you can eliminate that panicked feeling at 5pm when you realize you are starving and have no plan for dinner. Here are five tips to help you create a successful meal plan.
Post your Plan
Don’t just make a vague plan in your mind. Write down your plan and post it somewhere that you will see it every morning. This will remind you to take the chicken out to defrost or get the slow cooker ready ahead of time. It’s a lot harder to stray from the plan when it is staring you in the face. I made this cute menu board from a picture frame and scrapbook paper. But a piece of paper on the fridge works just as well.
I never plan 7 different dinners for a week. I generally plan 3-4 meals depending on our schedule. The other days I fill in with leftovers or meals out. If you are cooking for two, you will almost always have leftovers so plan for them ahead of time. Will you have them for lunches? Or schedule a repeat for later in the week?
I start my meal plan by considering what I have on hand. My freezer is always stocked with meat and chicken that I buy either in bulk or on sale. I start with those proteins and build my menu from there. Look over your grocery ads to help make your meal plan. Don’t plan on having pork chops, unless you already have them or they are on sale. But, don’t pass on a great deal just because it isn’t on the menu for that week. When whole chickens are on sale, I usually buy 3. Each one becomes two meals, so there is 6 meals I don’t have to think about during the coming month.
Consider Your Schedule
Do you and your husband both work late on Tuesdays? Perfect night to schedule a slow cooker meal. Or are you getting a pedicure after work (p.s. That sounds amazing to me right now!)? Let the hubs cook his special spaghetti sauce that night. Look ahead and don’t schedule haphazardly. You will not be happy if you have to cook a complicated meal after spending all day at work in meetings.
Stick to the Basics
I love to cook, but a random Wednesday night is not the time to test out a new recipe. I stick with the basics when I am meal planning. We almost always have tacos once a week, chicken something, vegetarian something, and usually one new recipe. I plan the main dish and then fill in with a salad or whatever vegetables are in season. And remember, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup is a perfectly acceptable meal to add to your plan.
Do you plan meals in advance? Any other tips to add?
Erin’s blog, Simply Frugal Mom is all about helping busy moms save time, save money and save their sanity. You’ll find recipes, crafts, gardening, and other frugal living tips to make your life a little bit easier. You can also connect with Erin on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.
— Newlywed Survival (@NewlywedSurvive) June 22, 2012