Friday, February 26, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Meal Planning

One area of our life that I think we could really save and cut back is our food expense. Because I know this, I've been working really hard on cutting back our waste and the easiest way I've been able to do so is by meal planning. While I'm not an expert on the topic, I've been focusing on better planning our meals, our trips to the grocery and saving money since the 1st of the year. I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way and today, I want to share 5 simple ways to start meal planning.

Tip #1 -- Shop Want You Already Own

When I sit down to create out meal plan, I plan our meals around what we already have on-hand. Often times, this will cut back on the need to purchase meat or frozen veggies, cutting back the amount I spend at the grocery by $10-$15. This also gives you the chance to prep your pantry, fridge and freezer for the new food you will be purchasing. Often times, I discover we have everything for at least 2-3 meals already so those are easy additions to our menu. 

Tip #2 -- Pick Meals You Will Eat

It's easy to say you'll have this or that for diner but if fish and rice or soup and salad aren't really you thing then odds are you aren't going to stick to the plan you've put together. Pick meals you are going to enjoying making and serving to your family. Dinner is the only meal we eat together as a family so it's important to me that we have dish we will enjoy together.

Tip #3 -- Plan Dinners Out

Since I do the majority of the cooking in our house, I plan nights to eat out. I like the chance to indulge a bit and quiet frankly, sometimes ordering pizza is easier on me. If I'm meal planning 2 weeks at a time, I will plan two dinner outs. Not only does this allow me a break from the kitchen, but it's something to look forward to. 

Tip #4 -- Use Pinterest When You Get In A Rut

Once a week, I'll cook something from Pinterest. I try to switch things up and try new recipes and what better place than Pinterest to find fresh ideas. I usually use the words simple, easy or quick in my search to find recipes that I can pull off. I'm not chef so it's important that I find management recipes. 

Tip #5 -- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid or in my case Stephanie)

My last tip is to start with a simple meal plan and expand from there. Stick with the recipes you love and know and work those into a 2 week menu plan. Make recipes that fit your lifestyle. In a 14 day cycle, we have homemade pizza, a Mexican night and spaghetti and meatballs. The other 4 nights we branch out a bit but nothing extreme or over the top. We are feeding a picky 3 year old after. 

Here is an example of a menu that I put together. None of the meals I make our difficult nor require a ton of prep time. I've found that if you stick with 2-3 meals that are regulars and slowly work in new fresh recipes, you'll find that planning 3 weeks or more one time isn't as difficult as you think. 

Menu template can be found HERE

While it's a bit overwhelming at first, once you get started and plan 5-7 days worth of meals, you find that it's not as bad as you imagined. Planning our dinners helps cut back on the "What am I going to do for dinner?" question and because I've planned in advance, I'm not left ordering our or grabbing fast food. 

Do you meal plan? I would love to hear your tips and what works or doesn't for you and your family. 

Happy Friday, friends!

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