One of the biggest struggles families can face, is deciding what to make for meals each week. I know my husband and I were really inclined to stop at a fast food place if we didn’t have a plan on what to make at the end of the day. You may experience the same struggle. So, I have compiled a list of how you can start to meal plan effectively, reduce your grocery budget, improve your health, and reduce your stress. So, here is how to meal plan!
Set a budget
The first thing you will want to do when starting to plan your meals ahead of time, is establish how much you are able and willing to spend each week or month on groceries. If you want some help on how to create a budget, check out this post. This is an important step because this is how you will be able to change your life financially and will help you not pay for unnecessary or even unhealthy items if you choose.
Make a list of all meals you know how to make
I would then recommend making a list of all the meals you know how to make. I would recommend you only include meals you actually enjoy eating in this list as well. We all want to enjoy what we eat right?
Research some more meals you would like to make
Once you have made a list of all the meals you know how to make, you may realize this is a rather short list or realize you would like to expand upon your current menu. This is where you do your research! Personally, I use Pinterest to link me to other blogger’s recipes. Just make sure you actually use the meals you find to keep your menu exciting and different. You can also be sure to build upon this throughout each year. I just recommend having some basic ideas to start with.
Categorize your meals
Once you have done your research and made your lists, I recommend separating your meal ideas into categories. You should select these categories based on what kind of meals work for you. Personally, I separate breakfast, lunch/dinner, and snacks. Other categories you could use are Italian meals, vegetarian meals, soups, and Mexican meals. Again, just choose categories that fit well into your plan and your life.
Choose the meals you want for each week
This is the step where you identify and select the meals you are going to be preparing during the upcoming week. This way you have multiple options if you want the flexibility of changing when you will make each meal during the week, or if you want to prepare meals ahead of time. We write all of our meal ideas on a whiteboard on our fridge. This way, it’s easy for my husband and I to see what our options are for the week and can set meat out to thaw (if necessary).
Write down all the ingredients you will need
Once you have selected the meals you wish to prepare you will need to make a list of all ingredients that you will need. I personally categorize ingredients into the following categories to help my grocery shopping experience go more smoothly:
Check local store sales
The next thing you will want to do, is check your local store ads. Doing this, will help you be prepared on what you can expect to pay for the items you need. Now, you have the option to do this prior to selecting your meal plan for the week, but I don’t do this anymore. I found that I would overspend when I did this step first because I would buy things just because they were on sale, instead of focusing on the items I needed. You can do what is best for you though. I do recommend taking advantage of staple pantry items you use, and meat because saving money on meat is more difficult than on other items.
Now you are all ready to shop! All the preparation and planning you have done has made you ready for this final step! Grocery shopping! Just be sure to stick with your plan so that you stay within your budget, and so that you get the items you need to feed yourself and your family for the week.
Hopefully this list will help you not only save money with your grocery budget, but also help ease the stress in your life when it comes to worrying about what to make for dinner or breakfast each day. Let me know what you think and be sure to share your tips for how to meal plan below!
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