Friday, November 8, 2013

Meal Planning Basics

Recently, a couple different ladies have asked me about how I make our single income stretch. Goodness...what a question! I could fill a book with tips on that one. lol! But, I do have a few ways that I talk about frequently. Today I'll share my biggest help!

Meal Planning.

Yup! It might sound simple, but meal planning saves us at least $200 a month, probably more!
($200 might not sound like a lot to some of you, but that's our water/trash bill, my cell phone bill, a jumbo box of diapers & a box of wipes. The savings for us, is huge.)
How can something so simple, save us so much?

2 major reasons:

1. When you have a plan, you have a (wait for it...) plan and it's less likely that you'll need to eat out.

Now, it happens. That pesky thing we call life.

Like when you remember it's crock pot 3pm. Or when piano lessons get moved back to 4 and you stay late chatting with the teacher, and get home at 5:30. Or when all the kids have been puking since the night before, and you're washing your 4th load of bedding and just finished your 2nd bottle of Lysol when Daddy walks in the door.

It's those days we throw our hands up in the air and order the pizza, or have Daddy pick up a bag of burgers & fries on the way home. And, it's okay! Embrace it. You're human, and you can only do so much.

But, when you have a plan, you may see that you've got a super fast meal you can make, or it might happen to be left over night, or you may have a freezer meal you've prepared ahead for nights just like that one. 

Sunday is our busiest day. We used to grab dinner between church services till we did the math.

Instead, I have a plan. Sunday in this house is usually my crock pot day. Everything goes in before we leave for church, and by the time we get back, it's ready to eat! Other days it's a super fast meal that's ready in 20 mins or less, but seriously, I love my slow cooker.

2. When you sit down to plan out your meals, you also create your shopping list. Later, you hit the store, get what you need, come home, unload, and you're done. For us, that happens twice a month. 

How does that save me money? 

I'm only going to the grocery store once a pay period. 

Every time you walk into a store, you are bound to grab something that you don't need!

You know what I mean. I'm not talking about filling another cart. (don't we wish!) It's when you run into the store for something you genuinely forgot to put on the list, and come home with a few extras.

The little things.

The soda & magazine in the check out isle.  The Halloween candy that's on clearance. That brand new really pretty thing that you didn't see before, but now you must have! Or the DVD that has been marked down to $16.99 for a limited time only!

We all do it. That's what stores are designed for - getting us to spend money - and they're good at it.

*sigh* I have a love/hate relationship with Target. ;D

We're good with keeping track of the bills and gas and the misc expenses. It's those little things that add up, and throw us off. Especially those yummy designer drinks we all love. Grabbing a mocha once or twice a week, at 5 bucks a piece, is a budget killer, for sure. For me, I have to actually set aside money specifically for my favorite drink at Starbucks. If I can't fit it into the budget, and if I don't have a gift card, I don't go. Yes, really.

So, now that you know the why, here's the how!

It's super easy. Time consuming, but easy.

1. Gather up your favorite recipes.

     * For some of you, this will be super easy. Pinterest!

     * Some of you have a stack of cook books that you use religiously.

     * And some of you are already thinking to yourself: I quit. haha! Don't! The internet is bursting at the seams with ideas and recipes. It may take some effort, but you'll have a stack or Pinterst board ready to go in no time. =D

2. Get a blank calendar, or a simple piece of lined paper & a pen.

3. Figure out what you want to eat, when & get it on paper.

   * I like to pull out our family calendar too, so I know what type of meal would work for what day. It helps to know if we have plans to go out or if we're having company. That way I know whether to have no meal planned for that night, or a meal big enough to feed a crowd!

    * Also consider weather. Is it going to be cold & raining, or would it be a perfect day for grilling?

    * Think about the day. Should you make a slow cooker meal because you have soccer and piano that day, or is it Taco Tuesday?! Did you sign up to make a meal for the new mother at the church?

Really, the more you plan, the smoother your day will be, and the less you'll spend on food you won't eat. I can't tell you how many times I've had to toss fruits/veggies/dairy products because I didn't use them. Ugh. It's such a waste of food and money!

A typical trip to WinCo. List, iPod for calculator & music, and a soda. 

4. Write out the ingredients you need & create your shopping list.

5. Get to the store
and stick to the list!

Really, there's not much to it.

It might seem a bit overwhelming, and the first few times might take you a while, but I promise the more you do it, the easier it gets.

For more help with the planning, keep reading!

Here are some FREE printables I threw together for those of you just starting out! There are 4.

Here is a blank calendar, for those of you who prefer to do once a month shopping, or if you just want to make sure you don't eat the same meal 6 times in one month. lol!

 Monthly Meal Planning

Here is a detailed weekly menu, perfect for putting on the fridge and minimizing the "what's for" questions.
 Detailed Weekly Meal Planning

This is a 5 day quick sheet or for those of you who just want to jot down the meals & some ingredients on the same page, and run out the door. I've had to do that many times!
 Quick Meal Planning
This last one is just a lined sheet for shopping lists. You can cut it into quarters, or half, or leave it whole. Whatever works for you.
 Blank Shopping List

I know it's been a long post, thanks for sticking around!

Keep coming back, as I will have a few more posts similar to this one in the near future.

Let me know if this helped & if you'd like another kind of planning sheet. If you leave me a message detailing what you would like, I can get one to you.


  1. I love meal planning. Who am I kidding? I love all kinds of planning! I enjoyed reading your tips and process. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I'm a planner, too. Glad you enjoyed the post! =D

  2. Great planner! Pinned it to my budget friendly folder.

  3. this is awesome! thanks!!!!!! (very well written too! :D )

  4. wow, great ideas... love how will thought out these ideas are... sounds like you have a really great system. I've pinned a printable... thanks! Emily

  5. Love these tips and the printables! They're great! Thanks for sharing. Stopping by from the DBB.

  6. I love meal planning. What a great post! Thanks for the tips.

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. =D

  7. I love this! This post could not have come at a better time for me since I have been wanting to meal plan for a while now, I just didn't know how to get started! Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm stopping by from the DBB! Pinning this so I can get started next week!

    1. I'm glad I could help! Thanks for stopping by & good luck!!

  8. Pinned this one and it is well written, good job. Keep it up. Love planning and being on top of it. Yes, Meals are so important to our well-being. One of the best way to make friends and create family memories. Is sitting around and eating. Thanks again. Look forward to more.