If you’ve been hanging around for very long, then you know that I am a HUGE advocate for meal planning? Not only does meal planning cut stress from your weekly routine but it also helps you save more by utilizing items you already have in your freezer and pantry, which in turn helps you stay within your budget.
Here are a couple of questions I’m asked quite frequently…
Do you plan your meals around what’s on sale?
My answer is both “yes” and “no”. Yes, because there aren’t many items I buy at full price. Almost every item in my cart is usually on sale and hopefully paired with a coupon. This holds true with meat. I can’t remember the last time I bought meat when it wasn’t on sale or reduced for quick sale.
However, I do not plan menus according to what’s on sale the week I’m shopping because I shop according to the Pantry Principle, meaning I stock up on products when they’re at their lowest possible price so that I never have to pay full price.
When planning menus, the first thing I do is “shop” my freezer and pantry. The goal is to try to put together as many meals as possible utilizing the ingredients I already have. Doing this lessens the items I have to add to my shopping list and gives me more cushion to stock up on sale items for that week.
I shop on a weekly basis so for the most part I deal with planning that week based on what I have in freezer and pantry. The template I use, however, is for one month at a glance.
I do this for two reasons:
1. I can easily see what I made for dinner in the weeks prior to the current week. This helps me to remain creative and not bore my family to death with the same meals over and over. I try to make it a rule not to fix the same meal more than twice in one month.
It also helps me to remember if there was a meal that was switched around or not prepared due to hectic schedules, spontaneous plans or whatever other unexpected chaos erupts within our household.
2. I can plan ahead if desired. Many times I will pencil in future meals based on meat deals I find or family plans.
Above is my menu plan for March. As you can see, I have already planned our meals a week in advance. Next week is Spring Break so all the kids will be home plus we have company comping. On top of that, the Hubs and I will be just returning home from a long weekend in Branson. I wanted to be prepared so that I can ease back into my normal routine.
Here are a few tips for using a monthly meal planning template:
- Write in specific family plans or appointments that might affect what you make for dinner (quick meals vs. elaborate, crockpot vs. oven, etc)
- Use a specific color of highlighter to mark meals that were actually cooked.
- If there is a change in plans and a meal wasn’t prepared, move it to a future date. Write the new date (where it was moved) beside the original date. This will help you keep track of changes and not end up rescheduling a meal twice.
- Keep the last month’s menu so you can look back for ideas and avoid getting stuck in the meal planning rut.
What tips and tricks do you use to make meal planning easier?