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I love saving money! One of the biggest ways I save money is by meal planning. Learning how to meal plan is easy. Once you learn how to make a meal plan, it should only take you about an hour or less a week to plan.
I’m currently making our meal plans for a 2-week period. The grocery store isn’t my favorite place to go so I limit myself to twice a month.
I spend around 2 hours a month planning our meals for 30 days and it’s worth every minute.
What is the Purpose of Learning How to Meal Plan?
Making a meal plan helps you plan your meals ahead of time. You don’t have to try and figure out what your meals are last minute.
Once my meal planning is done for the week, I don’t have to think about it again until the next week.
If I’m planning my meals last minute, then I will most likely overspend at the grocery store because I’m not prepared. I want to serve my family a good meal that’s budget-friendly and I can’t do that if I’m too busy.
Each day brings something new and one less thing I have to ask myself is “what’s for dinner?”.
How to Plan Meals for the Week
You start a meal plan by making the decision to do it. I decided to start meal planning about 8 years ago. It has saved me time, money, and sanity. I’ve gotten pretty good at cooking home meals (with the help of good recipes).
My family actually prefers home-cooked meals over restaurant meals now. We usually don’t enjoy restaurant food as much as the food we eat at home.
Because of that, we challenge ourselves to eat at home as much as possible. The only time we eat out is if it’s a special occasion, we are traveling, or we can’t make it home to eat.
I’m excited to share the exact steps I take each week to make my meal plan. There are different ways to do this. This is the way I’ve been doing it and it works well.
Things I will cover in this post:
- Free Meal Planning Printable
- How to Make a Meal Plan
- Cheap Family Meals
Free Meal Planning Printable
Grab your Free Meal Planner Printable
I created this free meal planning printable to help you get started with your meal planning. The picture above is the color version but I also created a black-and-white version that is included in the PDF download.
This meal plan printable is very helpful when you are trying to organize your meal plan for the week. I start out using the printable and then I transfer the meals to a really cute chalkboard my kids got me from Hobby Lobby.
They like seeing a menu for the week. It also keeps them from asking me multiple times the dreaded question “what’s for dinner?”.
How to Meal Plan
1. Ask family members if they have any dinner requests
I like to give my husband and kids the opportunity to request a meal they would like. Sometimes they have a request and sometimes they don’t.
It’s funny because they may just request a side dish rather than the main entree. I usually honor their request if the items are a good price and fit our budget.
2. Check the grocery ad for meats on sale
Most of the time, the grocery ad determines what meat I will buy each week. Meat is the first step of each meal for us. We like protein-rich meals.
You should also check your freezer for frozen meats that you can incorporate into your week’s meal plan.
3. Figure out what type of meat you will cook
I like to cook a variety of meat each week. We usually limit red meat to once a week. We mostly eat chicken, pork, and turkey.
4. Match your recipe to the meat
If I want to cook chicken, I look for a chicken recipe to cook. Sometimes I struggle with this. I created a board on Pinterest that helps me keep my recipes organized.
It has the recipes I’ve cooked that my family would like me to cook again. I usually look through those recipes before I search for a new recipe.
I also try to add one new meal (a recipe we haven’t tried) to our weekly meal plan. This helps me keep a variety of options available.
If we try that recipe and like it, I will add it to my “Delicious Good” board. This process has been working for us for the last few years. It’s really helped with my meal planning.
5. Write down your meals
I write my meals down on the free meal plan printable as I find them. If you write them down, you can keep track of each week’s meal plan and look back at it.
It’s very important to write them down. My week gets so busy that I forget what I planned for dinner. It’s nice to just look at my list.
6. Determine what days you will cook each meal
You may have decided what days you are going to cook your meals already but if you haven’t you need to. Some weeks, I can “wing” this. On other weeks I can’t.
It depends on if I will be home to cook dinner. I like to schedule my slow cooker meals for my long busy days. Then I don’t have to worry about cooking a meal when I get home.
7. Make your grocery list
I always start my grocery list by adding dinner ingredients. After I have those items written down, I will add the other items we need to the list.
Cheap Family Meals
I’m working on writing several posts with budget-friendly meals. These cheap family meal ideas can give you more variety. I have them sorted by protein type and cooking method to make your meal planning easier.
Here’s what I have so far:
That’s it! You don’t really need anything fancy to accomplish this. Simple is easier. The only thing you need to do is commit to spending the time to make your meal plan for the week. It’s very rewarding to have it planned ahead of time.
You will save money by eating at home. We have a set grocery budget of $150 each week for our family of 5. This may or may not seem like a lot to you. We like good food and that’s why we have our budget set the way we do.
Do you meal plan each week?