Tips on Meal Planning

Tips on Menu Planning from the Meal Planning Mommies

Meal planning is:

Creating a flexible, livable schedule of family meals
Meant to take the stress out of dinner time and put the fun back in cooking family meals.
Going to help you a variety of healthier, cheaper, etc. meals based on your family’s needs.
Going to save you MONEY and TIME.
Individual to your family

What meal planning does not have to be:

A rigid calendar of meals
Meals that don’t suite your family’s tastes/lifestyle
Time consuming

Key points to remember about meal planning:

1. Planning is great, but you
must remain flexible

Your plans may change that week, your tastes may change, save what you have and use it next week. Each week, I try to come up with a couple of meals that will take some time to cook, and then I make all the rest relatively easy. If I spend an hour cooking dinner one night, you can bet the next time I am only cooking for 15 minutes or so. :)
2. Plan according to what you already have, what is on sale and to your budget.

Make sure you have a few “staple” meals in the cupboard. Every week my family eats PB&J or grilled cheese for lunch at least once, and spaghetti dinner at least once. This is because we always have the ingredients on hand.

3. Variety is nice, but it’s okay to plan the same meal twice (or more!) a month- Example, weekly pizza night!
My husband loves chicken fried rice. I almost always have the ingredients in our house. On weeks when I buy chicken on sale you can bet that this one will be served that week. Finding a meal that
    your family loves + easy to prepare + Cheap to make = Meal Planning Staple Meal
    4. Grocery shopping must come AFTER meal planning
    You cannot effectively MEAL PLAN at the grocery store. We find it helpful to print off our downloadable grocery list each week and place it in a visible spot in the kitchen.
    Our grocery list serves three main purposes:
  • To Keep a running list in the kitchen. Our list makes it simple because you simply circle the much needed item on the list the moment it crosses your mind. This means that later, when peanut butter is for from your thoughts and you have already scraped the last bit out, it has already been circled on your list!
  • To help you effectively meal plan by circling the items you need for your menu. If you meal plan at the store you will buy things you do not need (hmm...snickers looks good this week) and spend money you don't need to spend (why was my total $200?). Then, you will get home and realize, "DOH! I forgot SUGAR!" and have to run back to the store later. :) (or is that is just me?)
  • To serve as a good reminder to make sure that your food choices are balanced. If you notice that there are a lot of processed foods circled on the list while there is a lack of circles in the fruit, vegetable, grains department it can serve as an encourager to plan more meals/snacks that use these items. Using a running grocery list can actually help you see your families eating habits and make changes for the better if needed.
5. Your meal plan should be VISIBLE so you stick to it
.Download a Free meal planner sheet at meal planning mommies, get a small white erase board for your refrigerator or create your own meal planner. If you don't write it down you will probably forget what you had planned to make. Then you will get to the middle of the week and think you need to eat out. (oh! that's just me too?) ;) It will also serve as a reminder to your family so you can avoid the “What's for Dinner?!” question.

6. You do not have to be a good cook to be a meal planner.
  • TRUST ME! There are lots of great resources available to give you ideas of how to create easycheap meals. USE THEM, your family will never know! At meal planning mommies we have a variety of ideas for you to choose from. From frugal to kid friendly and even ethnic recipes!

    Simple steps to becoming a meal planner:
Step 1: Create your menu

It is up to you whether you create a menu for only 1 meal a day or you plan all 3 meals. Do what works best for your family!

Here is an example of a 1 week dinner meal plan created by Alisha @ meal planning mommies:

Monday: Creepy Crawly Tuna Sandwiches
Tuesday: Bombalki
Wednesday: Country Bob's Burgers
Thursday: Hash brown Quiche
Friday: Split Pea Soup
Saturday: Ham and Cheese Tortillas (from our girl's weekend)
Sunday: Mexican Tortilla Skillet
Step 2: Create your Grocery List

You probably have an on going grocery list tacked to your fridge or in your purse. If not, feel free to download the free grocery list we have at meal planning mommies.
As you meal plan, you can circle the items that you need for your upcoming meals onto the list. This will help you stay focused at the grocery store and be more aware of what you actually do have hiding in your pantry that could be used for meals this week.

Step 3: Implement your Meal Plan

You will have a day this week when your meal plan may not fit into your schedule or you just don’t feel like cooking what is on your plan for dinner that night. Be flexible, but don’t go out and spend more $. Switch your days up and use a meal from a different day or cook a meal you have in the freezer.
Forget something at the grocery store? It's okay to substitute! Every cook has those moments when they start a recipe only to find that they do not have one major ingredient that they need to bring the whole recipe together. Don't you hate that? Here is a list of ingredients and some of their substitutes so you can finish a meal even if you are missing an ingredient. Feel free to print one off or save it to your files. Who knows, you might surprise yourself and make a delightful change to the recipe you never would have come up with otherwise!

Step 4: Love your Meal Plan

Enjoy the stress free dinner hour eating dinner with your family. Love that you are saving money in your budget because you are buying only what you need. Be proud that your family is eating healthier due to your planning.
You are a meal planning mommy!