Menu planning is something I highly recommend. Not only does it save money, lessens the unnecessary stops to the grocery store, but it also makes our life much easier!
Today, I’d love to share with you how to menu plan for the week.
I’m going to give you a system that will ensure you are saving money AND eating well.
While there are various ways to menu plan, what I’m showing you today, has been my tried and true system for the last 15 years.
Regardless of how you may tweak my system to work for your family, the bottom line is, you have to have a plan. Whether rigid or loose, a plan will save you hours of time and hundreds of dollars each year!
Here are the steps on how to menu plan for the week:
Step 1: Take Inventory
Scour the cupboards, the fridge, and the freezer for food items you already have. Use the items that you find as a starting point for your menu. Make a list of meal possibilities from what you find.
Maybe you have some pork chops that you picked up on sale, and you have some vegetables from last weeks shopping trip, and perhaps you always have rice on hand. Right there you could have a meal of BBQ pork chops, rice and vegetables!
By using what you already have, you will instantly start seeing savings on your weekly grocery bill!
As you are going through your pantry, fridge and freezer, mark down any staple items you need to buy more of. If you find you are low on milk, eggs or flour, for example, add these to your grocery list.
I like to jot down all my ideas on a small piece of paper titled ‘menu’ and on the other side I title it ‘grocery list’ to put down everything I need to buy. (I like to have my menu with me when I shop because sometimes I’ll forget why I’m buying something or it helps me remember to buy an item that I may have forgotten to write on my grocery list.)
Step 2: Look through the sale flyers
Quickly look through your flyers to see what deals your local stores have. Jot down on your shopping list, the things that are a great deal and you know your family will eat or use.
If you coupon, now is the time to pull out your coupons to see which coupons will make the sales a great deal. For example, maybe this week No Frills has toilet paper on sale and you also have a coupon. This makes it a no brainer purchase!
I do most of my shopping at Real Canadian Superstore as I find they usually have the best overall prices. Occasionally, I’ll pop over to a different grocery store if I see they have great deals on some things we will use. I don’t like to shop at a lot of stores each week because I find that I will end up spending more than I intended. 😉
When I find a great deal on something we use regularly, I’ll stock up as much as I can. This saves tons of money.
I try to build up a small stockpile of ingredients to work with when planning our meals so that some weeks I only have to buy the basics like milk and fresh vegetables!
Step 3: Finish planning your menu
Once you have taken inventory at home and determined which sales you want to take advantage of, write out your menu with your findings.
At this time in my life I do not plan our breakfasts and lunches.
I only plan for five dinners including side dishes, leaving one night open for leftovers and another for dinner out or a quick bowl of soup.
I also don’t give each meal a specific night to be made since I like to cook for what I’m in the mood for that particular day. I try to have at least one chicken dish, a beef dish, and a pasta dish.
For breakfast, I like to have fruit, cereals, eggs, bread and the ingredients for basic pancakes or French toast on hand. I’ll occasionally buy bacon but that’s usually only if it’s in a dinner recipe I’m using.
Lunches are almost always dinner leftovers from the night before. We rarely let food go to waste!
When you’re first starting out with menu planning, you may want to plan all three daily meals, as you don’t want to forget anything at the store. The less trips to the grocery store, the more money and time you’ll save!
Step 4: Make a final grocery list.
Now is the time when I go over my list to see if I’ve forgotten any pantry staples, milk or items needed for a recipe. I’ll also put all the items into categories according to the store layout. Produce, meats, dairy, canned goods, personal supplies…etc.
Make a list and check it twice!
Step 5: Go shopping!
I recommend going at a time of day when the store is not very crowded and you can take a time to compare prices or mark-downs. I try my best to get to the grocery store before 10:00am on Monday mornings. This is what works for me and I also find the shelves are well stocked on a Monday.
I’ve found that when the store is busy I’m more likely to hurry, therefore, I spend more money or forget something I’ve written down on my list.
You may also want to have a grocery budget and bring cash only. Using cash only forces you to stay within your chosen budget. We tend to get a lot of the same stuff each week so I know that I usually spend $125 each week, give or take.
Other useful menu planning tips:
I like to create simple meals that do not call for a lot of ingredients as this saves on time as well as cash since I’ll most likely always have those ingredients on hand. (soy sauce, spices, etc…)
As you are preparing a meal, you may want to double it to put one in the freezer. It’s always nice to have meals in the freezer you can pull out when you don’t feel like cooking! I do this all the time with Spaghetti sauce and taco meat.
There you have it! That is how to menu plan for the week.
Do you menu plan? If so, what kind of menu planning system works for you (monthly meal plans, weekly plans, loose plans, etc.)?
Menu planning and I have had some ups and downs over the years, due to various life seasons, but I always come back to menu planning because it has SO MANY benefits.
I started menu planning when my husband and I got married way back in the fall of 2007. I was hoping it would make life simpler.
Nearly 15 years later, with mostly consistent planning, I’m finding that it does and I absolutely love it!
If menu planning seems like another chore that you don’t want, today, I’d love to tell you the 5 things that I love about menu planning!
I only shop once a week.
When I was living on my own, if I wanted to make something specific, I would go to the store that day to purchase any ingredients I needed.
If you’re anything like me, a trip to the grocery store for only a couple of things, turns into purchasing many unexpected things. Doing this a few times each week, I was obviously spending more than I needed to by going more than once a week.
With a menu plan in place, I can limit my grocery shopping to once a week because I’ve accounted for all the ingredients and staples I need based on what I already have and what’s on sale.
Less temptation to eat out.
In other words, we save money AND eat healthier by having a menu plan. But because we enjoy eating out once a week or so, I actually factor our meal out into my menu planning so I don’t buy any wasted ingredients.
I have more motivation.
Cooking isn’t my favourite thing to do these days. However, when I have a plan in place, I’ve eliminated a big part of the battle.
I don’t struggle for meal ideas or have any missing ingredients. I can just jump right into meal creation almost thoughtlessly. I almost get excited about making dinner, because I already know what I will be making!
Are you trying to ensure your family is eating healthy? A meal plan is the best way to plan your meals and keep everything as healthy as possible. Many people can attest to the fact that healthy, fresh meals can seem way more expensive to make than their not as healthy counterparts. Today, I’d love to show you how to make an inexpensive healthy meal plan.
Buy or make a cheap calendar
First of all, the best plan of action is to write your meal plan down. It’s nearly impossible to stick with a plan unless it’s written down. I like to use a traditional calendar to write out what we will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you have a place to write down what you will make, you can move on to the next step.
Make a list of healthy foods your family likes
I have learned (by trial and error :)) that you will save money by buying what you know your family will eat. If your family loves bananas, apples and carrots, then spend your money buying those delicious fruits and vegetables. You can always try adding one new fruit or vegetable a week in small quantities.
Create a list of healthy meals that are inexpensive
The only way to create an inexpensive healthy meal plan is to make a list. Make a list of all the healthy meals you can think of that keep you on a budget. You may want to put google or Pinterest to use helping you find ideas. I also really like Budget Bytesfor recipes! In my household, we try to stick to a main dish, veggie side, and rice/potato side. This helps keep things on budget and simple. For example, barbecued chicken with a side of mixed veggies and baked potato.
Plan Meals around Sales
This is a very effective way at saving money on your grocery bill each week! When you look at your list of family favorite meals and your inexpensive meal ideas, also be sure to look at what’s on sale that week. Pick the meals from your lists that correspond with the sales. For example, maybe oatmeal is on sale. You could buy that and eat oatmeal for breakfasts that week. Or maybe chicken thighs are on sale. Pick meals that can use those items that are on sale.
Make a shopping list
When you are meal planning healthy meals, you need a shopping list. You don’t want to forget what you need to buy and it helps keep you accountable to eat the healthy meals that you’re planning. A shopping list will help you save your sanity. Write a note in your phone or jot it down on a piece of paper. Depending on the store you shop at, you can even make a shopping list in the store app.
Stay on budget
When you’re planning an inexpensive healthy meal, try to stay on budget. You can do the math of what a meal will cost before you even head to the store. This will help you know how much you need to spend before you even spend it. For example, chicken is $3.99 a pound and you need 3 pounds to make this week’s meals. That’s rounded to $12, which can make about 2 meals for a family of 4.
There you have it, the steps to making an inexpensive healthy meal plan for your family. Take your time, create a budget, and plan each meal out. The most important part is sticking to the meal plan that you took the time to create.
If you really struggle with the idea of creating a meal plan, try out $5 Meal Plan. It happens to be my favorite meal planning service. It’s just $5 a month (the first two weeks are free!), and you get menu plans sent straight to your email along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This service allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well! If you are interested in joining for free, click here.
I’m a big fan of printables so I’m especially excited about the Grocery Budget Binder and the Meal Planning Success Kit.
Since my daughter was diagnosed with many food sensitivities last year, I’m going to dig in first with the For Real: For the Love of Real Food ebook for some ideas.
If you want to simplify mealtimes, put unfussy (but still healthy) meals on the table, and ditch the frantic late afternoon craziness, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle.
What will be on your holiday menu? Leave it in the comments! Any food traditions you have to uphold? How do you keep on budget?
Sign up for the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas newsletter to receive a FREE Christmas Dinner Checklist! This checklist is quite detailed and will help you remember all the details needed for a memory filled dinner with family and friends. You’ll also receive a weekly email with each week’s “task”.
Here are the posts in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series so far:
There’s nothing more frustrating than starting to bake or cook something delicious only to find that a key ingredient is missing. Ugh! But there’s no need to scrub a recipe and sulk in frustration. If you know what you’re doing, you can just substitute it with something else! Here are some easy ingredient substitutions that are bound to be in everyone’s pantry or fridge and are sure to save the day.