Meal Planning

I’m a huge planner. I literally plan just about everything on paper, I love knowing what is going to happen and it really helps me keep my sanity. Meal plans are one of my favorite (and most important) plans that I make.

With hubby working long shifts, my business, four kids, and homeschooling I just can’t wait until 5 o’clock to decide what we’re having for dinner! Meal planning is a process for me, and it can be quite time consuming (some weeks more than others). This post is a step-by-step guide to how I meal plan.

Shop at Home First

Take a look through your fridge, cupboards, freezer, pantry, etc. Is there anything in there that needs to be used? Is there anything that could be used as the main dish or as side dishes? For example if I have 2 chicken breasts in the freezer and a head of broccoli in the fridge, chances are good that I have everything on hand that I need to make broccoli, rice and chicken casserole.

I can usually fill at least half of the week with items that I have on hand! Write your ideas down.

Shop Sales

After I have a good idea of what’s in the house, I look at the weekly sales. First for meat and other main courses, then for side dishes to go with them and the meals I’ve already chosen, then for breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas. If an item is on sale for a really good deal, I will try to incorporate it several times during the week. For example, if broccoli is on sale, I will probably make a couple of casseroles with it, serve it as a side dish, and chop some up for easy snacks.

If it is an exceptionally good deal, and it is something that will keep well or can be frozen, I will buy more than what we need for the week so I have it for later.

I also keep my coupons closeby when I’m doing this, and by pairing coupons and sales I’m often able to get things very cheap or even free!

Also, when planning meals I like to plan to double at least one meal each week to freeze, but, more on freezer cooking in another post!

Write It Down

I was given an awesome fridge calendar that has places to write meal plans on it, but there are lots of free printable ones available online! I also add an prep work that needs to be done ahead of time (chopping, browning, etc) and the method of cooking (slowcooker, oven, etc). I generally only write down dinner ideas, and make sure that I have enough options available for breakfast and lunch.

Here are links to a few great sites I’ve found for meal planning, most of them also have attached grocery list:

Frugal Living- Free Meal Planners

Fab ‘N Free- Menu Planner Printables

Taylor Gray Designs- Meal Planner Freebie

Then I write out our grocery list, broken up by store if I’m shopping at more than one. Finally, I add what we need to buy in household items and hygiene items.

Then, it’s just a matter of remembering to look at your meal plan, see what needs to be taken out, and what prep work needs to be done!

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