This post has been a long time coming! I have been meaning to post my meal plans twice a month when I make them. By the time I find the recipes, make the lists, go shopping and put everything away I completely space it. I then remember I was going to post it two weeks later when I make the next list and the whole cycle starts again...AAAAHHHH! Not this time! I made this meal plan about a week ago and as I was deciding what on the list I was going to cook last night I remembered I was going to post the meal plan. So I put this at the top of my to do list for the day! Yes, it is 3pm and the day is mostly gone..but it's still on the top of my list. You can see now why I don't accomplish much these days. That's why my to do lists and meal plans are so important to me.
I thought while I was sharing this week's plans I would also include some tips if you are new at meal planning or feel you could use a little help in that area. By no means am I an expert in this field. These are just things I have learned over the last 2 years planning meals.
*Decide how often you want to do meal planning and coordinate that with how often you want to go grocery shopping. At first I was planning meals on a weekly basis and going to the store at least once a week. That worked great until little Statham was born and then taking a 14mo and a newborn shopping weekly turned into more work than fun. That's when I switched to doing 2 plans a month. Not only does it cut down on my number of trips to the store it also helps me save quite a bit of money too. I went from spending $50-$60/week on groceries to now spending $60-$70/major trip, which I do twice a month. Now of course I can't buy everything for the 2 weeks in that trip. Fruits and veggies get eaten or get bad or bread gets moldy. So when I am making my grocery list I actually make 2 different lists. One for my major trip and one for a secondary trip I make in between.
*Have the current ad for the stores you shop at the most handy while meal planning. I do our major trips at Smith's every time and I always have their ad next to me when I'm planning meals. Why you may ask? Because I can plan my meals around what is currently on sale. For example if chicken is $1.79/lb I will plan more meals that have chicken as the main ingredient vs. ground beef or steak that is $3.99/lb +. I can also see what other side items are on sale and stock up on items if they are a good price.
* Going along with the previous tip is knowing what is a good price. This is something that comes with time. You won't know you're first time going into a store whether the sale price is really a good price it takes going back time and time again to know whether a price is good or not. There are also websites that can help with this too and give you links with coupons and alerts when different products are on sale. A few of my favorites:
The Krazy Coupon Lady
Cuckoo for Coupon Deals
Raining Hot Coupons
*Keeping with planning tips... Plan out your week, or two weeks. If you know that you are going to a family dinner or have plans to eat out figure that in to the meal plan so you don't buy food you're not going to eat.
*Talk to your family and see what kind of foods they like. When I first started I was making recipes that sounded interesting to me and was always wondering why sometimes we had so much leftovers from a meal I LOVED... If your family isn't going to eat it, no use in wasting your time and money making it right?! Make notes of meals everyone, or even a particular family member, likes and keeps those in the rotation on a regular basis. Same thing goes for snack foods. If your kids don't like munching on carrots and prefer bananas... Don't buy carrots, buy bananas!
*Plan meals with similar ingredients to help cut down on costs. One of my first successful meals was Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken with rice and brown sugar carrots. The chicken and carrots had almost the exact same ingredients so it made it less expensive to buy; but more importantly they tasted good together. If you are cooking a spicy main dish don't make your side dish sweet... it just doesn't flow well.
*Go meatless at least once a week. Not only does this save money but it also gives you a chance to try new things you may have not tried before. I started doing this about 6 months ago and I love it. We usually have 3-4 meals per plan that are meatless now. And it doesn't have to be anything too extravagant... it could be as simple as Spaghetti with tomato sauce and garlic bread.
*Try to plan at least one grain, and one vegetable per dinner meal. Sometimes I'll swap the grain out for potato if we are having fries or baked potatoes. But it's always good to have at least 2 sides so there is some variety and just in case you have picky eaters and they don't like one thing.
*Plan 3 meals a day and 2 snacks a day. This sounds like a lot of work! But it really isn't. For us we usually have the same thing for breakfast during the week (eggs and toast) and get a little fancier on the weekends (French toast, pancakes). Lunches are similar... there are 3 or 4 options and we rotate those (Turkey wraps, grilled cheese, PB&J, leftovers). You guessed it.... same thing with snacks. I plan 3-4 different snacks and that's what we have to munch on through out the day. The only meal that has diversity in our home is dinner. It does take extra time to plan 3 meals, 2 snacks/day but, for me at least, it makes for a much happier family and is one less thing I have to worry about. I know there is always going to be something to munch on anytime someone is hungry.
*Learn what your family likes/eats lots of and stock up when it's on sale or buy it at the warehouse clubs. We make 2 trips to Costco a month and buy the same things every time (We buy the certain things on the 1st trip and certain things on the 2nd trip). The only thing we buy more than once a month there are eggs. Our usual monthly Costco trips consist of:
Sometimes there will be sugar or flour if we run out but I always like to keep the above list on hand (especially diapers ;) )
Wow that turned into more of a meal plan/budgeting tips section. Let me know if you would like me to do a post on how I stick to a $300/month grocery budget post and I can put together more tips.
Now on to the last few weeks meal plan!
Eggs and Toast (x10)
Strawberry French Toast Cannolis
French Toast (x2)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Fruit (Strawberries, peaches and grapes because they were on sale)
Mayo Chicken with Rice and Green Beans
BBQ Sloppy Joes with Mac n' Cheese and Green Beans
Ranch Burgers with Fries and Corn on the Cob
Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches with Fries and Grilled Zucchini
Cheeseburger Casserole with Zucchini
Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken with Rice and Green Beans
Baked Three Cheese Pasta with Zucchini
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps with Fries and Green Beans
Spaghetti with Garlic Bread and Zucchini
Eggplant Parmesan with Angel Hair Pasta
We have 2 family dinners planned so I only made 12 dinners for this plan. As I build my recipes on here I will leave links to recipes as well.
This is just the first of many more meal plan posts... I hope you enjoy it :) And happy planning!