I’ve been doing a monthly meal plan for quite awhile now and I LOVE it. I don’t think I will ever change the way I do this because it works so well for me. There is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s 110% worth it.
Here’s why I love meal planning:
- Allows me to stock up on meat at rock bottom prices. While I’m out couponing every week or picking up the weeks’ milk and produce, I’ll hit the discount meat section and grab super cheap meat to use on next months’ meal plan. (Can we talk about $50 worth of steak for $12?!)
- Allows me to put my stockpile to use. Yes, I’m a couponer. No, I’m not sorry. I stock up on pantry staples and extras for very little money and am able to work them into my meal plan, allowing me to feed my family for very cheap. And, no we don’t eat a bunch of Kraft mac and cheese and Spam. C’mon, I gotta save my Spam for kimchi fried rice. 😉
- Eliminates frustration and confusion. Who has ever had to run to the store in the middle of cooking for a key ingredient that you totally forgot you needed? Have to run to the grocery store every day? Hungry family and no plan for dinner? (Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George.) We’ve all been in all those situations and it sucks. My meal plan eliminates them.
- Saves time. Again, are you running to the store ALL THE TIME? How long do you spend rummaging around the pantry to see what’s for dinner? Spend a little time planning to save yourself more in the long run.
- Creative expression. Ok, so I’m not really sure what to call this point, but you’ll understand. Because I coupon, I typically have some random stuff that we don’t necessarily use all the time. What do I do with it? I find fun recipes to try or come up with my own. Did you know you can make a cake out of Swiss Rolls? What about stuffing cupcakes with pieces of candy? How many ways CAN you use peanut butter? DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN MAKE NACHOS OUT OF TOTINO’S PIZZA ROLLS?!
- I am omniscient when it comes to eating and feeding people. I know what events are happening, when they’re happening, what I’m making for them and how much I need to make WELL in advance. I know who is coming for dinner, what day I should prep what dishes ahead of time and roughly how much will be left over. I have birthdays scheduled for cupcake baking, I know what days we’re going out to eat, I even know what days I should make a batch of cookies or fudge so my husband can get them out of the house and unleash them on his coworkers before I can eat 50. I feel your excitement. Haha.
Now you’re scared. 😉 But before you make a mad dash out of here for the sake of my dignity or your waistline, hear me out. Just because I’m telling you I’m making PB&J poutine for dinner, does not mean you have to follow suit and none of these tips will ever apply to your lifestyle. Kids or not, coupons or not, weightlifting husband who MUST get X amount of protein per day or he will die or not, the general idea remains the same.
So how do I start?
First, you’ll need to gather some recipes. Take a quick look in your pantry for items you already have on hand for inspiration – most people have at least a little collection of staples and items they didn’t end up using for whatever reason. Start with those items and try to find recipes that use them up. Otherwise, pull up your Pinterest or dust off those cookbooks and magazine pages and gather away!
Second, get yourself a meal plan calendar and grocery list. You can make your own, find one online (there are plenty beautiful options for purchase on Etsy) or meal plan calendar NEW 2020 (I’m picky, I HAD to have control over the details 😉 ). I also LOVE these erasable pens for meal planning – they’re great quality and keep my plan free from scribbles.
Here’s where you’ll really need to put your thinking cap to good use. Plan out your meals. To minimize waste, I like to group meals with overlapping ingredients together. For example, if a recipe calls for fresh spinach but I know I’ll have extra, I’ll plan spinach salads for lunch or make sure to choose the next dinner recipe to use it up. There’s also a certain talent to guesstimate how many days a meal will feed your family.
Next, make a list of items you’ll need to purchase – recipe specific ingredients and basic staples (enough to last the month!). I like to use four different colored pens to mark which fresh ingredients need to be bought for which weeks. For example, I can’t buy cilantro during week one and expect it to still be good on week four; I’ll mark it as week four and purchase it on that weeks’ produce and milk trip.
Finally, go shopping! For non perishable items, I shop once a month. I hit Costco for any bulk goods that I’ll need and then purchase my other pantry, household and health items wherever else. I purchase items like heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs, butter and yogurt once a month (YES, those items DO keep for a month – most of them you can even freeze!) unless there is a stock up coupon deal on them, in which case I will go ahead and purchase extra. I do still have to purchase fresh fruits, veggies and milk every week for obvious reasons.
There you have it. It seems like a lot, but once you get a groove it really does pay off. Remember to be adventurous, involve your family (it doesn’t hurt to ask what they’d like to see on the plan – ice cream sundaes for dinner once in a while will absolutely get you bonus points 😉 ) and, most importantly, have fun with it!
Feel free to ask questions or tell me your own experiences or tips! I’d love to hear it!