Convinced you need to give meal planning a try? Like I said in part one, it doesn’t have to be complicated and it will be well worth your time. Here are some practical steps to get you started.

Making a meal plan

Take a few minutes to sit down and write out 7 meals that everyone in your family likes to eat, or at least will eat without a meltdown. If you need help getting started, try planning a meal for each of the following categories; fish, chicken, beef, soup or salad,crock pot, and “fun” like tacos, etc.

The more meals you can think of that will use items that are already in your pantry, the better. That will free up more of your budget to start buying your sale items if you are pursuing the idea of using coupons strategically to save money on food. From there, write a list of every ingredient you will need to buy in order to make all of the meals you have chosen.

Some people plan their meals around what’s on sale that week.  That is a good way to save some money if you are not stocking up on food when it’s at its lowest price. Stocking up while prices are low allows you to plan whatever meals you want to eat because you will have most of what you need in the freezer and pantry. It’s much easier to write a meal plan based on what you want instead of what’s on sale. Not having to plan around the sale may make the difference in you making a meal plan or not. (For help in learning how to save money using coupons, see www.itsmeorthecoupons.com)

When you are working out your meal plans, consider the cost of the meal as a whole. Some people only use ground beef and dark chicken because they feel that using chicken breast, fish, or a roast (or even steak, dare I say it) is just too much money. They also skimp on the fresh vegetables because produce seems expensive. Stop and add the cost of making a dish like lasagna (not to knock lasagna, who doesn’t love a good lasagna? And its perfect for bulk cooking) with all the cheeses and sauces, etc. Yes, your meat was cheap but the cost of the whole meal was probably no less than a good roast with carrots and potatoes. Why? because the money you spent on the roast, you saved on the fact that the rest of your meal was very inexpensive. How much do a few carrots and potatoes cost?  Produce can seem expensive until you start looking at it as a high percentage of your meal instead of as a side item put there to make mom feel like she’s doing a good thing.

You may want to take a few minutes and decide which meals will be better for which days. For example, I always try to make a quick clean up meal for Wednesday so we can get the kitchen all cleaned up before we head out to church. Is there a day you will be gone all day, or really busy at meal time? Make that day a crock pot day. Is there someone who will need a meal brought to them this week? Whatever you bring to them, make two, now your family has supper too.  You can write your meal plans on a calendar, making notes regarding tasks that need to be done ahead of time such as defrosting a roast or getting the crock pot started.

Having this written out at the beginning of the week will help you stick to your plan.  It may seem like a lot of work up front but it really does only take a few minutes and it really pays off. You’ll be surprised at the peace of mind you’ll have simply by knowing what’s for supper.

Be sure and keep a copy of  your weekly menu. When you have created several weekly meal plans you won’t have to plan as often.  Just grab one of your previous weeks and you’re all set. You can make up new weekly plans as you have time and as you try new recipes.

Planning your meals will put you well on your way to not only saving money but also to having more peaceful evenings at home.

Be sure and let me know in the comments below how your meal planning is coming and how in what ways it’s blessing your family.

 

Beth Cranford,

no longer panicking over dinner