Cooking is one of the household chores I enjoy most. And I love making printables and to do lists, so I knew it was time to make some new ones I could use and share with you all! I’ve seen the rewards of meal planning, but I’m not always consistent with it. Saving money at the grocery store is at the top of the rewards for me. When you have a shopping list directly tied to a meal plan, it keeps you focused at the store. Having the right tools like this meal planning printable kit and ensuring it’s one of my habits has been essential in becoming more successful.
People talk about it all the time, but why should we meal plan? There are so many reasons! Which is why it’s something most of us will benefit from, regardless of your goals. It helps save money, helps your family eat healthier meals and takes away the daily stress of figuring out what and how to feed your family.
The stress part alone is worth it to me, but we are also on a budget and finally I don’t want my kids to get used to eating out all the time. You don’t have to make traditional “healthy” meals like salads every night. The majority of stuff you cook at home will have better ingredients (and therefore overall healthier) than what you buy in a restaurant.
What is Important to your Family?
Step number 1 is to consult your family. Usually, I pick three different proteins and base our meals around those. We like to have some variety, while still rotating through some of our favorite meals. Think through as a family what your main preferences are. Are you planning around dietary needs, budget guidelines or easy and fast meals?
Next, write down your family’s favorite meals. You may have some already and add more as you try out new recipes. These are golden. And you’d be surprised how you can forget if your family loved a meal. The hustle and bustle of life is real. Last year, I stumbled on a recipe again that I had completely forgotten about. It was one that was loved by everyone so clearly had to go into our regular rotation. I added it to our favorite meal list, so it won’t be forgotten again.
Every week will be different. Maybe sometimes you’ll want to try something new, or your family is craving something specific. Then there are those other phases of life where you just go to the recipes you know how to make and your family loves. For me, that is most of December leading up to Christmas. There is so much going on that I want to think as little as possible about what I’m cooking.
Start with What You Have
Having a freezer and pantry inventory help so much! Because those items will last you longer than a week, so it’s easier to forget if you still have a certain spice or canned tomatoes for a recipe. Write those out first, and then each week you can take an inventory of what else you have.
One of the easiest ways to save money, is to take inventory of what you have in the refrigerator that can go bad. If I have veggies, I’ll plan to put them in omelets, or salads, taco bowls or fried rice. With fruit, you could make a fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or freeze for smoothies. Whatever I decide, I plan for those items early in the week so they get eaten and not end up in the trash can. i.e Throwing away money. No bueno.
Look at Weekly Sales Online
Most grocery stores have their weekly circular online, listing their sales for that week. I go to the meat section first, since they are usually the most expensive part of the meal. Based on which are on sale, I look at the recipes I have and pick what I will cook for the week (you can also plan for two weeks, month or whatever works best for you). We also do at least one night a week meatless. It’s usually whole wheat spaghetti with a veggie sauce because it’s easy.
If you’ve never shopped at Aldi and are on a budget, you must start! Easily one of the best ways to save money on groceries. There are not many name brand products, but you learn their brands and they are just as good if not better sometimes. While their stuff is already priced low, there are also weekly ads for additional discounts.
Write it Down in your Meal Planning Printable!
Pick a day for planning and grocery shopping- they can be different or the same. For you to stick with meal planning, there has to be time carved out for it on a regular basis. Use your meal planning printables to write down all your meals and shopping list for the week. You can laminate and hang it up in your kitchen, or print it weekly.
That’s it! Starting to meal plan can be tough. The steps are simple, but starting anything can be challenging. We have to work on making it a habit first. Which takes practice.
Another fun way to approach meal planning is having themed days. It also gives you a framework. Especially if you don’t have a list of favorite meals yet, it narrows down all of the different recipes out there. For example,
- Monday: Meatless
- Tuesday: Tacos
- Wednesday: Instant Pot
- Thursday: Seafood
- Friday: Pizza
Other ideas can be Asian, BBQ, American, Chicken etc. You can choose your favorites and it will give your planning a framework to work with.
Our meal planning kit has everything you need to get started on your meal planning. Including a one pager meal plan sheet and a more detailed form with a separate shopping list. I have the basic one hanging up and fill it in as I think of recipes. Then I use the more detailed sheets when I sit down to fully plan the week out.
Hope you find these useful! Let me know in the comments if you have other advice or questions!
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