Organize My Life, Part Three: Meal Planning
What’s so great about meal planning anyways? Why should I even bother?
Meal planning saves money!
You heard that right, it will save you money very consistently, week after week. Every week I take a look at my favorite stores sale fliers. Since my biggest food expense (like most families) is meat, that’s where I start. From the sale priced meats I plan approximately 4 out of 7 meals. Then, I buy a few more meals worth of meat to put in the freezer for later or to make freezer meals for later use.
Thrive does monthly sales on our freeze dried food so I usually do my best to buy sale items in larger amounts. I also buy much of our produce items from Thrive since I never have to worry about them going bad that way, and I’m confident in Thrive’s high quality standards, which are much better than any typical grocery store. I try to make it a point to put together a few meals-in-a-jar per month. We use about one or two a month because, inevitably, something comes up where it ends up being dinner time and I don’t have a clue of what to cook or no time. By putting together a different one each month, and some extras for later, I always have “fast food” in a variety of flavors!
Meal planning means less stress!
By having a plan, I don’t have to think about dinner every single evening. I have a list that has my meals for the week (or 2 weeks, or month, it’s up to you!), it’s straightforward. No stress. I look in the morning and decide which one I’m going to make, thaw anything that is needed from the freezer, so that’s it’s all ready to go by dinner time. I cook every night with few exceptions, so I like to keep the time I spend in the kitchen to a minimum. By doing just a little bit of planning ahead I can make that happen.
Meal planning means a healthier family!
When you plan your meals, you will inevitably plan healthier foods than anything you might grab at a fast food joint, or have delivered. Even if you plan to have a burger and fries at home, it will be healthier than what they’re serving you from a drive thru window. Not to mention, planning can help you meet all of the nutritional needs of your family–especially if it’s like my house with differing diet plans going on. Holy moly!
How to start meal planning for your family:
- Choose how often you’d like to do the bulk of your shopping. Keep in mind that if you do your shopping bi-weekly or monthly that you may need to make small trips to the store for perishable and produce items between “big shopping days”.
- Check those sale fliers. I check all of them online, and “clip” any online coupons the store might offer. My favorite store is Meijer and they have a coupon and savings program called mperks. I save about $1000 per year using that. I never clip real coupons. The Sunday paper is too expensive to justify buying it just for the coupons within.
- Try to base your meals around what’s on sale to make your dollar go further. Write out your meals fully. Instead of just writing “pork chops” write “pork chops w/mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans with dinner rolls.” Instead of writing “hot dogs” write “hot dogs, macaroni-n-cheese, and steamed broccoli with ice cream” This will help you to make your shopping list more quickly without forgetting important things, like dessert. Ha!
- On items you buy a lot, stock up when they are on sale. This week at our local grocery store, they had thick cut bacon 2 for $6. I bought about 10 packages of bacon. It won’t go to waste and it will last us for about 2 months! Score! Remember: It’s only a good deal if your family is definitely going to eat it before it goes bad and has to be thrown out!
- When you’ve got your meals all planned, write out your detailed shopping list, including what you’ll buy at which store if you’re going to more than one. Stick to your list and I guarantee you’ll save money!
Plan to be prepared too!
It’s fantastic to plan your meals, and even to have a few meals put away in the freezer or pantry. However, it’s important to plan for the unexpected too. So why not spend a few dollars per month (your savings from planning your meals) on something that will help ensure your families preparedness if something bad does happen? Why not start by researching 72-hour kits and what should be in them? Just pick up one item per shopping trip! Maybe I’ll do a more in-depth post about the importance of preparedness soon.