I love saving money! One of the biggest ways I save money is by meal planning. It takes me about an hour a week to meal plan but it’s very rewarding.
What is the Purpose of Creating a Meal Plan?
The purpose of creating a meal plan is so you don’t need to try and figure out what you are eating last minute. Once my meal planning is done for the week, I don’t have to think about it again until the next week.
I like to meal plan because I’m busy. I want to serve my family with a good meal 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 Do You Start a Meal Plan?
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 all 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 Create a Meal Plan
- Free Family Meal Plans
Free Meal Planning 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. Click on the meal planning printable image above to get your free download of both the color and black and white version.
This 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 Create a 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. 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. The 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 meats you will cook
I like to cook a variety of meats 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 is called “Delicious Good“. 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 usually 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 “Recipes We Like” 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 printable as I find them. If you write them down, you can keep track of each weeks 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. 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.
Free Family Meal Plans
I’ve been trying to post our family meal plans each week. I’m hoping this will help you with your weekly meal plans. If you are interested in seeing our family meal plans click this free family meal plan link to check out the meal plans I’ve posted.
I’m also working on finding more recipes that help me in my family meal plans. Here’s what I have so far:
- 25 Slow Cooker Chicken Breast Recipes That Are Budget Friendly
- 10 Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs Recipes That Are Budget Friendly
- 10 Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Recipes that are Budget Friendly
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?