Meal planning. We know how helpful it can be in ensuring we have tasty meals on our table each week, but why do we (and by ‘we’ I mean me) struggle so much? Some weeks I rock it out; i’m talking breakfast, lunch and dinners all purchased and prepped and ready to go. Then there are weeks like my current one where I got busy on Sunday and didn’t think to meal plan or grab groceries and here we are on Wednesday having already eaten out twice for dinner. This is not conducive to my health or financial aspirations, but I can’t be the only one who needs inspiration. I saved you the trouble and cooked up some hacks that have helped me meal plan quickly and on a budget.
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Get a recipe box
You can use a real recipe box (like this adorable one) that would look so cute on your counter and you could hand it down to kids. Or you could use a virtual one like a folder in your email or an app like Yummly where you can save recipes and make a grocery list. Bored with the same meals every week? Spruce up your recipe box by asking friends and family for their favorite meals and try something new. There are also cookbooks for every diet variation. Pinterest is also a great place for inspiration. You could even try a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron to get some fresh ideas and save a trip to the grocery store. Any way you do it, meal planning will be a breeze if you already have a list of meals your family loves to pull from.
Make time to plan
This is where I get tripped up the most. I have the best intentions for planning out my my meals but get busy doing all the other things and come Monday I have nothing on my meal planner sheet that sits sad and lonely with nothing but scribbles from my 4 year old. At least she was trying to plan. Take out your phone right now (I’m serious, do it!) and schedule a 30 minute planning session one day this week. You are more likely to plan if it’s scheduled. And I’m sorry, but if you try to say you don’t have 30 minutes in the 168 hours we all get every week, then you have no life. You have the time, you’re just spending it on something else.
My planning is usually done Sunday afternoon. I review my recipes, check my inventory of what I already have and then write my meal plan down on my magnetic meal planner that sticks on my fridge where everyone can see it (I love Bloom Daily magnetic meal planners). I always review the plan with my husband and daughter and make any edits before getting groceries so there are no surprises. They are more likely to eat the food that they pick out or had a hand in. My daughter loves helping to cook, which means she will usually eat it. I make at least one meal something my husband can make (like grilling or his favorite spaghetti) and take one day as a lazy day. This could be left overs or maybe we go out. This takes some of the pressure off of me and frees up a few afternoons for time to work on other things I actually want to do.
Order your groceries online
I can’t tell you how much time and hassle has been saved by having someone else to my grocery shopping for me. I love the Wal-Mart free grocery pick up because it’s close to me, has great prices and most of all, the service is totally free (You can get $10 off your very first order here)! You could also have your groceries delivered right to you door using Amazon Pantry (try it totally free for 30 days here). I love that I can keep my grocery list going and edit as needed before ordering. Who doesn’t want to save an hour or more dragging a four year old through the store who won’t stop begging for toys by simply coming home to you groceries waiting on your door step?!? This service is revolutionary for busy moms and we should all feel fancy for letting someone else handle this drudgery for us so we can concentrate on the stuff that matters, like catching up on your favorite shows.
I used to make the mistake of buying a ton of food that either went bad or was thrown away after the 4th night of leftovers. Buy only what you need for that week and keep the staple items such as pasta, rice, soups, frozen veggies, etc. always stocked. Prep everything you can like cutting up fruits and veggies or make your meat sauce ahead of time. Freeze any meats that you won’t use within 3 days. Make meals that are good as leftovers or you can freeze for later use, like baked pasta dishes. You can also plan meals that can do double duty. For example, Taco Tuesday can now be chicken wrap Wednesday to use up those soft tortillas and shredded lettuce and cheese.
What tips are working for you? Do you have some great advice to add? Comment below and let’s help each other!