How to Menu Plan for the Week

how to menu plan for a week

How to Menu Plan for the Week

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.)

how to menu plan for the week

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: 5 Things I Love About It

menu planning

5 Reasons Why I Love Menu Planning:

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.

menu planning

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!

You might also like: Easy Ingredient Substitutions.

We save money.

Before I menu plan, I take a quick look through the pantry, fridge and freezer to see which ingredients I have on hand. I can usually think of one or two simple meals using what I already have.

My next step is take a look in my local grocery flyers to see what is on sale. I plan some more meals based on what’s on sale.

With both of those strategies in play, I am less tempted to impulse buy because I know I won’t need that item.

I also like to make plenty of dinner so that there is enough leftover for lunches the next day. This helps eliminate the need to eat out for lunch!

It’s a good use of my time.

It takes me less time to plan a weekly menu plan then it does to think up a meal each and every day at meal time. I’m a big fan of using my time efficiently. 😉

There you have it, 5 reasons why I love menu planning! Do you menu plan?  If so, why do YOU menu plan?

How to Make an Inexpensive Healthy Meal Plan

How to make an inexpensive healthy meal plan

How to Make an Inexpensive Healthy Meal Plan

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.inexpensive healthy meal plan

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 Bytes for 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.

Related Meal Planning Posts:

Do you have any tips to add? Let me know all your inexpensive healthy meal plan secrets in the comments below!.

The one thing standing between you and healthy meals

If you’ve spent any time at all here at Simply Frugal, then you know I sing the praises of meal planning. Taking the time to meal plan is just so sanity saving and money saving!

However, if you’re anything like me, there are seasons in life when you need all the inspiration you can get.

That’s why I’m excited to let you know that the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle is available once again for a couple of days!

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.

If you’re ready to stick to your food budget, whip up healthy meals, and quit wasting food, check out the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle before the sale ends January 27, 2021.

Countdown Timer

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas: Plan your Food

I think this will be a fun week in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series!  It’s all about food! Specifically, we’re going to plan our holiday menus.  You’ll want to think about:

  • Christmas dinner
  • Christmas brunch
  • Christmas eve
  • Boxing day

And well, any meal surrounding Christmas day.  My planning is quite simple.  My parents cook our Christmas brunch and dinner so all I have to do is bring the cheesecake and some baking!

For inspiration, I highly recommend taking a look through Pinterest.

While you’re planning out your dishes, be sure to start adding items to a grocery list.  You don’t want to forget anything!

To help you out, you’ll want to check out the Christmas dinner planner and grocery list that are available in the Holiday Planner, here.

Also be sure to print off the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas checklists to make sure you’re on track for the final week’s until Christmas day!

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:

Missing an Ingredient? Here are Easy Ingredient Substitutions

Ingredient substitution list

Easy Ingredient Substitutions you need to see

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.

Read on to see the complete list, or download your own printable Easy Ingredient Substitutions PDF here or by clicking on the image below. (I recommend hanging it up somewhere in your kitchen for easy reference!)

Vegetable oil

Substitute with butter, margarine, coconut oil or apple sauce

Apple Cider Vinegar

Substitute with white vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar

Substitute with apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

Tomato Sauce

Substitute by mixing one part Tomato Paste and one part Water.
Or substitute with canned tomatoes and adding onions, garlic and some herbs.

Baking Powder (1 tsp)

Substitute with 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Easy Ingredient Substitutions

Bread Crumbs

Substitute with cracker crumbs, crushed cornflakes, ground oatmeal, or even cooked quinoa.

Brown Sugar (1 Cup)

Substitute with 1 cup white sugar and 2 Tbsp molasses.

Butter

Substitute with margarine, oil or shortening

Buttermilk (1 cup)

Substitute with 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to make 1 cup
Or substitute with 1 cup plain yogurt

Corn Syrup

Substitute with honey, maple syrup, or brown rice syrup

Ricotta Cheese

Substitute with cottage cheese or cream cheese.

Fresh herbs (1 Tbsp)

Substitute with 1 tsp dried herbs

Honey (1 Cup)

Substitute with maple syrup, corn syrup or 1 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup liquid (whatever is called for in the recipe)

Lemon Juice

Substitute with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Mayonnaise

Substitute with sour cream or plain yogurt

Wine

Substitute with beef broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth, apple cider (not vinegar), water, tomato sauce, white grape juice or non-alcoholic wine.

Yeast (1 tsp)

Substitute with 1/2 tsp Baking Soda and 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice

Rice

Substitute with Quinoa. (Quinoa also provides twice as much protein and fiber which promote a healthier digestive system.)

Eggs

Substitute with 1 Tbsp ground Flax Seeds or Chia Seeds and 3 Tbsp Water. Mix until gelatinous.
Or substitute with silken tofu.
Or substitute with apple sauce or mashed banana

Pastry Flour (1 cup)

Substitute with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch combined with enough all-purpose flour to make a cup.

Salt

Often times, substituting salt for herbs and other seasonings like onions, lemon or lime can make a dish taste really flavourful.

Sugar

Substitute with 1 and 3/4 cup of powdered sugar.

I hope you find this easy ingredient substitutions list useful! I’ll leave you with the link to download a free printable PDF copy of the list, in case you missed it earlier in the post! 🙂

DOWNLOAD THE INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTION LIST HERE.

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