One of the simplest ways that you can save money on your grocery or entertainment budget, manage time and stress levels in meal preparation, and improve the health of your family is plan ahead for your meals at home. It may sound overwhelming to get started, but once you start and develop the habit, you’ll wonder how you ever survived living meal-to-meal. Planning at least a week’s worth of groceries gives you guidance and yet flexibility. Planning ahead and sticking to that plan ensures that you don’t have a pantry, refrigerator, or freezer (over)stocked with food and still wondering what you might eat for dinner.
If you are a novice menu planner, then start with some of these tips from Simple Meal Planning & Dinnertime Prep
. Plan just one week of meals
and create a thorough grocery list based on that plan. For those with more experience, try planning your menu for longer. I would recommend planning your menu for your primary pay period. This will help you keep within your grocery budget.
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- Consult your Calendar. While nothing prevents you from rearranging your menu plan once meal prep rolls around, it is helpful to keep an eye on evening meetings, after school activities, and celebrations
- Consult your Family. Each family member should contribute to the menu plan. Family involvement means more inspiration and more cooperation at mealtimes.
- Include Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks. When you include all of the mealtimes in a day, you are sure to cover your bases without going overboard (mixed metaphors?). Meals can be as simple or as involved as you wish. Maybe your family enjoys nothing but cereal each day. Maybe you eat a peanut butter & honey sandwich everyday for lunch. Be realistic about your meal options and be sure to plan for them.
- Make it Public. Once the menu is final, post it someplace prominent so that your whole family can see it. Distribute some of the responsibility of meals to other members of the family.
- Get your Ingredients. If you are going to make beef stew, there are certain ingredients that must be included. For each item on your menu, write down the ingredients that are necessary to the preparation of that meal. Then check whether or not that item can be found in your cupboards or refrigerator. Don’t spend money on items you already have. Head to the grocery with store with your grocery list in hand. Cross off each item as you set it in your cart. Forgetting an item will likely lead to an extra trip to the store.
- Create a Routine. When payday rolls around, I take out my trusty menu planner and begin working on the next two weeks of meals. It takes me about 24 hours of thinking and jotting to create the menu and list the ingredients before I leave for the store. When my family sees me working on my menu plan, they add their two cents and let me know if we are in need of any ingredients. By now, we all work well together to create a plan for meals that we all enjoy.
What’s one tip you have for planning your family’s menu? How often do you plan for meals at home? Tell us on the ListPlanIt Facebook page or below.