Getting Started With Meal Planning

Cooking. Some of us dread it, some of us [like myself] enjoy it. Either way, you have to agree that cooking at home saves a TON of money. Not only that, but cooking at home allows you the control of what you put in your food and into your body.

Remember the days when you were kid and pretended to go grocery shopping?

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But it’s such a hassle, right? It doesn’t have to be. When I was first married and we were getting settled into our new life managing our own home, I would wander around the grocery store aimlessly, wondering what I should buy, what I could make with the things that I bought. Inevitably I would get home and realize that I spent a chunk of money and didn’t come away with everything that I needed. So another trip to the grocery store was in order. And I spent more money. I knew this way of “planning” had to stop and I needed to find a better way.

My friends, this was in the days pre-Pinterest, so there weren’t a ton of awesome recipes being pinned in front of my eyes. There were no amazing meal-planning posts that gave me the idea of sitting down and planning. But somehow, the idea finally came to me… “I should sit down and make a list of all the types of dishes Nate and I enjoy.”

So I did. I found a little notebook and listed out all the meals we enjoyed, sorted by chicken, beef, pork, or vegetarian based dish. Soon I had quite a few things to look at and plan our week of meals.

My next logical step was to make a meal list for the week:

Monday – Spaghetti
Tuesday – Taco Salad
Wednesday – Tomato Basil Pasta w/Chicken
Thursday – Fajitas & Guacamole
Friday – Stir Fry

Now I had something going, here! From there, I built my grocery list. I figured that I usually buy one bag of frozen chicken tenderloins and one pound of ground beef per week. I knew I could make about three meals from the chicken and two meals from the beef. I took inventory of what I already had on stock and filled in the blanks on the grocery list. I set my budget and then it was off to the store.

This is how I’ve continued to shop each week, stay in budget, and relieve myself from the stress of having to ask “What’s for dinner?!” It has helped us avoid spending extra money on groceries or running out to buy a quick [unhealthy] greasy meal from a drive-thru.

There are, of course, different ways to plan and shop for your groceries. I used to shop weekly but started realizing how much I hate spending 2 hours of my Saturday at grocery stores. So I recently started stocking up for 2 weeks worth of meals. I do buy our produce weekly, but a 15 minute visit versus an hour is just a better deal to me.

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If you’ve never meal-planned effectively before and would like to start, I recommend starting with a plan like this. If you’ve been meal-planning for awhile but would like to be a bit more organized and intentional, I’d recommend checking this out. The second link is the system I currently use and really enjoy, but whatever works for you is what I would ultimately say to do.

What are some ways you like to save money regarding meals? 

Have a great night, friends!

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