Sunday, September 29, 2013

Meal Planning 101

If you are here looking for the perfect method for meal-planning,  you may want to search again.  I'm not an expert meal-planner, but I thought I would share some tips & tricks that have worked for me.  I've tried meal-planning off and on for the past few years.  Despite the "planning",  it seems like we always end up in a rut of eating the same meals.   Since school started in late August,  I've tried a different approach.

1.  Sit down a make a list of recipes your family likes or of recipes you would like to try.   My list generated 32 recipes as well as a few "new" recipes.  Granted there are some variations on the list (tacos, enchiladas & spaghetti, lasagna, stuffed shells) - but there aren't any duplicates.

2.  Dedicate time on your calendar to make your weekly menu.  Thursday tends to be a good time - you can look at the grocery store sale flyers and generate your menu around meat or other items that may be on-sale.

3.  Make a grocery list and check it twice.  I live in the Southeast & two local grocery stores (Lowes Food & Harris Teeter) offer shopping online.  You submit your order online, they shop the order, and you arrive at your pre-selected time to pick it up and go.  They always call after they've shopped your order to see if you need to add any items.  The cost is $4.95 per order.   Some people think this is absolutely ridiculous.  However, I've found that I stick to my list and actually spend less because there are no impulse buys. (and you can still use coupons!)

4.  Keep a frozen pizza or other quick go-to meals in the cabinet just in case.  There will be nights where the mountain of homework is unending or you simply don't feel good & it's quicker and easier to do a frozen meal.  It's still cheaper than hitting a drive-thru.

5.  Prep meals.  I enjoy Sunday football but not all afternoon long.  While super-husband enjoys the game,  I spend a couple of hours meal-prepping.  On average, I usually have 3 of 5 meals prepped for the week.   When I get home, it's nice to preheat the oven and bake!

6.  Why do I only plan meals for Mon - Fri?  We have one "eat-out" meal per week and it tends to be Saturday or Sunday.  Some weeks we have leftovers and don't always go through the 5 planned meals so I prepare one of those on Saturday or Sunday if needed.

7.  How much do I spend?  My goal is to keep our grocery budget under $100 per week; however, on average I would say I have been spending $125 per week.  Understanding couponing is next on my list -- I've never done well at it or perfected the methods.

 It's required a little more effort on my end - but the trade-off is well worth it.  I feel more prepared at the beginning of the week (no thinking what's for dinner),  we're saving money & we are eating out less.  Do you have any meal planning tips?

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