Have you noticed when you take time for meal planning how much money you save on groceries? A few days ago, I was reviewing our monthly receipts from the grocery store (when I wasn’t meal planning). The total amount of money we spent in a one month on groceries was shocking. It was over $800 (this did not include eating out)! I asked myself what happened?
I decided right then we would have to stop the multiple visits to the grocery store per week, always shop with a list of items and plan our meals before shopping. If you are like us and spending too much on groceries every week, it’s time to organize your meals by with a weekly or monthly meal plan.
It’s week 14 of Organize Your Entire Life. This week we are planning and organizing your meals. Taking time to plan and organize your meals will save you time and money, plus you will always know the answer to this question, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Today, I’ll share several different ideas on how you can efficiently and cost-effectively plan your meals.
Note: this post may include affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
Benefits of Planning Your Meals
Aside from saving money on groceries, meal planning has other benefits. By planning ahead you can develop a healthy and well-balanced meal plan for your family, not just random thrown together meals. Sure, it’s okay to occasionally have pizza night, but it’s also important to have mostly healthy meals.
Meal planning can also help your family develop healthy eating habits. With a meal plan, you are more likely to skip eating out and fast food meals and you will be less likely to keep junk snacks around because you have healthy meals planned. Learning to eat healthy is an important habit for children.
Create a List of Your Family’s Favorite Meals
Before you start planning your meals, make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Does your family love Taco Tuesday? Or salads? Maybe you have a favorite soup? In the Smart Mom Meal Planner, I included a page for you to write down all your favorite family meals so it will be ready when you start your planning.
Plan Your Meals Before You Shop
To save the most money with meal planning, you need to plan your meals before you shop. If you just shop haphazardly at the grocery store, you will overspend and many times purchase food that does make complete meals. Planning your meals in advance is the key to successful shopping and saving money when you shop.
Planning your meals and your grocery list before you shop will also reduce impulse buys. Train yourself to only shop from the list that’s it. Don’t add anything to the list at the store. The more you add that’s not on the list, the more you will overspend.
You might also like: 9 Keys to a Successful Budget
Methods to Planning Your Meals
If you like to grocery shop once a week, then a weekly plan will probably work best for you. Once a week, you plan your complete family meals for the week. Plan meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t skip planning breakfast and lunch (see my notes on lunch below). Having breakfast planned will make your morning routine go smoother.
If you like to plan your meals weekly, you usually shop on one day set day of the week. You might shop on Thursday because you review all the new sale papers and plan your meals based on the weekly sales. Or you might shop on Saturday or Sunday because you are too busy on the weekdays.
Monthly meal planners sit down once a month at the beginning of the month and plan all their meals. You have a calendar and decide your meals for the month at one time.
Monthly meal planning seems to have at least 2 advantages. First, once have 2 or 3 months of meal plans completed, you can just rotate through the months you have already completed. If you had 3 monthly plans, you would rotate the plans each quarter.
Second, monthly planning allows you to create one master grocery list for the month and shop only one time. You will still need fresh food items (milk, bread, fruit, and vegetables), but make these items a quick weekly trip and shop only from your list.
Freezer Meal Planning
Freezer meal planning can be done weekly or monthly. When I do freezer meals, I like to do a monthly plan, but that can take a whole day of planning and preparing.
With freezer cooking, you prep meals in advance and freeze them. Sometimes you cook part of the meal and sometimes your prepare the food (chop vegetables, marinate meat, etc…) and freeze the food until you are ready to cook it.
The main advantage of freeze meal planning is you have meals almost completely prepared in advance you just thaw and cook on the day you need them. You always have a fast meal available. You can be more flexible with your meal plan (if you don’t feel like chicken today, pick something different).
Recommended resources for you:
My FreezEasy Membership – Learn how to prepare 10 meals in 1 hour.
School & Work Lunches
Purchasing lunch from your child’s school or eating out every day at work can add a large expense to your food budget. To save money on school and work lunches, it’s very important you plan these meals too. My children take lunches to school every day. I usually don’t plan these meals specifically for each day, but I have a few items I can select for each day. One of my children, the picky eater eats basically the same things every day.
If you and/or your husband works in an office, don’t forget to plan your daily lunch too. Taking lunch from home will save $100’s a year and cut tons of calories. Restaurant food has many calories than food from home. Save your money and your waist.
A Free Meal Planner for You
To make meal planning easier, I designed a 6-page meal planner just for you. You can plan your meals weekly or monthly, manage your grocery shopping list and keep all your family favorite recipes in one place. Download your meal planner today.
Get your Smart Mom Meal Planner and start planning your meals and saving money today. Set aside some time today or this week and start planning your meals. Choose your preferred planning method weekly or monthly and write a set day on your calendar to plan your meals (weekly or monthly).
How do you plan meals – weekly, monthly, freezer meals or just on the fly? What is your best money saving tip for meal planning?
photo credit: Jill Levenhagen