Save Money By Meal Planning

MenuPlannerDo you know what makes me cringe? (Other than spiders in boots?)

Throwing away food. Especially food that you forgot was even in the fridge or you never worked into your meals but had every intention to.

It feels like a crime. Against my bank account and humanity.

I need to be better at food planning and only buy what I am going to use for the week. I have resisted too long, but with the New Year and an ever-tightening budget, it is time to plan our family’s meals. Care to join me? This is my plan, if you’d like to follow along:

Determine Budget

 Establish how much money your family has every week/month to spend on food in your household. How much of it will go to groceries/lunches/restaurants? Fix your budget and plan on sticking to it.

Family Affair

 Ask your family members what they would like to eat for meals. I have found that when I let my kids have one day where they get to pick the meal, they are much more accepting of the other dinners that they don’t particularly like. Macaroni and cheese once a month is plenty for me, but it makes my children feel like they have a voice in meal planning.

Get it in Writing

I find that if I don’t write my plans down, they are as good as wishes. Write down your meal plans for the week or month and hang it in a place where you can see it often. In our family, the children get to buy school lunch once a week, which is written on the calendar as well.

This also saves a little bit of groaning when you have to answer the daily question of “What’s for dinner?” Just point to your weekly meal plan and walk away with a smile!

Here are a few printable menu downloads that you can use: ONE, TWO, THREE, and my favorite: FOUR

 Simplify

Keep it simple, silly. If you are trying to make a different country’s main dish for every meal, you are going to be spending a lot of money, not to mention loads of energy. We are big into alliteration in our home, so we have Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wet Wednesday (soup or chili), Thrilling Thursday (something new—usually from my Pinterest Food board), and Fun Friday (kids’ choice). If I had to pull out a new meal from Pinterest every night of the week, I would go crazy and broke. Breakfasts should be easy: have fruit on hand, some hot and cold cereals, bread for toast, eggs and you’re set.

 Bulk, Baby

 Knowing what to buy in bulk is half the battle. Be honest with yourself. You would like to be one of those people who eats 10 pounds of spinach every week, but you’ve thrown away more barely-eaten bags full of leafy greens than you’d like to admit.

Produce is tricky. We need it. We should eat a lot of it. Don’t buy it in bulk until you have proven that you are going back to the store daily for the same items in your produce sections. Or freeze it. I buy large bags of kale leaves and make half of it into kale chips and freeze the other half in small Ziploc bags—ready to use in my future recipes.

Beans, rice, oats, nuts, pasta and other dried foods are all great items to keep stored in bulk at your home. We buy a bag of beans and quinoa every shopping trip and add it to our storage room. Protein in a pinch.

Limit the Junk in Your Trunk

 The less junk food you put in your car’s trunk, the more money in your wallet. Junk food always appears to be inexpensive, but it adds a lot of superfluous cuts to your monthly budget; not to mention it is destructive to your health and family’s eating habits. Make a little junk go a long way and bring it out only occasionally.

We Can Do It

 I am determined to save money and get my menus planned this year. The benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Are you on board? Will you plan out your menus this month? Are you a serial menu planner? What are some tips that you have learned?

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