Meal planning, when done right, can really save you time and money. If you know what you are going to make when you go to the grocery store, you will likely buy less or have fewer little trips running to the store because you didn't plan well for your week.
Meal Planning Tips
- Be realistic- When I first started meal planning I planned all these wonderful things that were going to be so yummy and healthy. Result? Wasted food (and therefore, wasted money), because when it came down to it, I didn't have the time or the desire to make what was on my plan.
- Make simple meals-See above. If a meal is too complicated, with tons of ingredients, it isn't likely to save you money. Things don't have to be complicated to be good or healthy. We don't need an entree and 3 sides. 1 casserole might already have everything we need it in.
- Have traditions-When I was a kid, we had waffles every Sunday, and I loved it. Now, I have pizza (frozen or from leftover ingredients), popcorn and smoothies on the menu every Saturday night.
- Use categories-With my new schedule, different days require a different kind of meal. I group my recipes using these categories and then plan each day from it's required category. It makes my brain spin a little less, when working on my menu. Categories I'm currently using? Low Prep, Pasta, Rice, Soups/Slow Cooker, and Casseroles.
- Plan for everything-This means plan for snacks, leftovers, eating out, double batches (if I plan to freeze half), frozen meals waiting in the freezer to be eaten (otherwise they will go to waste), etc. If you plan everything you will actually eat, you will not have to run to the grocery store to pick up forgotten things (meaning less impulse purchases, and therefore, less money spent).
- Finally, use a meal planner website or software. I use Veggie Meal Maker, and I love it. It used to take me hours to do what I can do quickly on Veggie Meal Maker. I store my recipes (or find new ones from theirs), plan my menus, and it creates a shopping list for me. It makes my life so much easier.
While I really like Veggie Meal Maker, I suggest trying something like this, no matter which one seems to work best for you. If you do want to try Veggie Meal Maker (hint: yes, you do), you can sign up for a free 30 day trial. You don't even have to put in your credit card information to sign up!
Once you sign up, I suggest that you read the tutorials and watch the videos to get the most out of it.