One way to lower your grocery bill is to meal plan before you go shopping. If you think that sounds complicated, let me tell you, meal planning doesn’t have to be.
As a busy mom and wife, I prefer to keep it as simple as possible!
I used to think that I needed a fancy chalkboard menu and lots of “Pinterest worthy” meals. But I’ve learned that simple meals make my husband happy, and they are less stressful for me.
There are two basic things I do to keep meal planning simple.
1. Create a Master Meal List
Think about all of the meals that your family eats on a regular basis and write them down in one place. As you find new meals that your family enjoys, you can add them to your list.
Having a list helps save time so that you don’t have to look through cookbooks each week or think of meals off the top of your head.
You can organize your list any way that works for you. I divided my list into 4 categories: ground beef, chicken, roast, and pork.
When choosing the meals, I pull 1-2 meals from each category for a total of 5 meals. That way we don’t eat chicken all week. That would be fine with me, but not for the hubs! 🙂
I also have a master list of ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts. This is great to refer for ideas.
It also keeps me from getting into a rut of eating the same thing over and over again.
You can sign up for this printable here. It includes a master meal list, master list for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts, and 12 monthly pages.
When choosing your meals, make sure you keep your weekly schedule in mind. I like to pick a few easy meals that I can throw together in 30 minutes. That way I can make an easy meal on the nights that I don’t have a lot of time or energy, and we avoid spending money on going out to eat.
I pick my meals out each week but fill in the meals to my monthly calendar.
2. Keep the Rest Simple
I know this tip isn’t for everyone, especially those who like to make elaborate meals. But having simple side dishes has helped me save money and save time on meal prep.
Basically, my side dishes don’t need complicated recipes because I stick to vegetables, fruit, and some form of bread.
The only cookbook that I use on a regular basis is my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book*. It is full of basic recipes.
I especially love referring to the chart for cooking fresh vegetables at the very end of the book!
Any vegetable that you can think of is included in this cookbook. I love that it shares both conventional and microwave directions.
Sometimes you just don’t have time to heat up the stove!
How I Keep Meals Simple:
- Choose 2-3 vegetables each week, and rotate between them for each meal. You can keep a stock of frozen and canned vegetables and buy some fresh produce each week too.
- Just like vegetables, choose 2-3 fruits for the week, and rotate them usually among meals. Often I will cut up melons and berries early in the week so that there is no preparation needed before each meal. We also like canned and frozen fruit for convenience.
- Keep breakfast simple with muffins, toast, oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt.
- I have a short list of snacks on my printable that we rotate on a regular basis: Craisins, crackers, veggie straws, cheese slices, cottage cheese, applesauce, and pudding.
Here is a step-by-step guide to how I meal plan:
- Pick 5 meals from the master list and write in monthly calendar.
- Check the freezer and pantry for ingredients that I already have.
- Write down any missing ingredients including anything needed for breakfast, lunch, or snacks.
- Look through the grocery ads and write down any sales that I want to stock up on.
- Match any coupons to items on my grocery list. (A great website for coupons is Southern Savers. I like to use their “search by item” tool.)
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.
Meal planning has saved me so much money and stress when it comes to making dinner, and I hope it does for you too!
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