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 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 do a quick meal plan before shopping. If you are like us and spending too much on groceries every week, it’s time to organize your meals by with these easy meal planning ideas.
Easy meal planning is part of the Organize Your Entire Life series. In this post, we are learning how to make simple meal plans. Taking time to plan your meals will save you time and money each week, 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 make simple meal plans each week.
Note: this post may include affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
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What are the benefits of meal planning?
Aside from saving money on groceries, meal planning has other benefits. By planning ahead you can develop a healthy meal plan for your family, not just randomly thrown together meals. Sure, it’s okay to occasionally have pizza night, but it’s also important to have mostly healthy meals.
Simple meal plans can also help your family develop healthy eating habits. When you have a meal plan ready, 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.
How do you start meal planning?
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.
Download your FREE Smart Mom Meal Planner now.
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. Easy meal planning before you shop is the key to successful grocery 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.
Recommended for you: My Completely Honest Review of Online Grocery Shopping (and why I love it)
Easy Meal Planning Ideas
If you want to get started with easy meal planning, try one of these meal planning methods:
- Weekly Meal Plan
- Monthly Meal Plan
- Freezer Cooking Plan
- School-Work Lunch Plan
- Rotation Meal Plan
Weekly Meal Plan
If you like to grocery shop once a week, then a weekly meal 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 to shop.
With a weekly meal plan, set aside time each week to make your menu plan and go grocery shopping.
The Smart Mom Guide to Easy Dinners is a 4-week complete menu plan. This menu plan has 28 dinner ideas, a different meal for each night of the week, no repeats meals.
With the Smart Mom Guide to Easy Dinners meal plan, you will receive:
- 4 Ready to use weekly menu plans
- Complete recipes for each dinner
- Side dish suggestions
- Quick dinners to feed your hungry family (most meals can be prepared in 30-minutes or less)
Monthly Meal Plan
Monthly meal planners sit down once a month at the beginning of the month and plan all their meals for the month. 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. (More on rotation meal planning below.)
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 Plan
Freezer meal planning can be done weekly or monthly. When I do freezer meals, I like to do a monthly plan, but a month of freezer cooking 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 Lunch Meal Plan
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.
Rotation Meal Planning
Once you have written 2-3 months of meal plans, you can just rotate the meal plans. If you write weekly meal plans, after 8 to 10 weeks, you can just start over and go through the meal plans you have already created again.
You will notice after creating meal plans for a few weeks that your family probably has about 15-20 meals they like to eat and you constantly rotate these meals.
Using a rotation meal plan saves you time, you do the work one time. Once you have the meal plans created, then you can reuse it over and over again.
From time to time, you can add in a new recipe once every week to try something new.
A Free Meal Planner for You
To make your meal planning easy, I designed a simple meal planner just for you. You can make a weekly meal plan or a monthly meal plan, manage your grocery shopping list and keep all your family favorite recipes in one place.
Request your Smart Mom 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 your easy meal plans.
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