I have a confession: I don’t have it all together. I didn’t always have dinner on the table when my husband got home. Some days he’d walk in the door, kids would be melting down, I’d be pouring a glass of wine and I would tell him to turn around and go get take-out! That started happening about two or three times a week with terrible consequences. Kids ate hot dogs a lot. My husband and I started gaining weight since our favorite take-out places don’t necessarily specialize in health foods! We spent a TON of money both on take-out and all the wasted food in the fridge. We needed a change and it needed to happen quickly. I began meal planning and it changed our lives in more ways than one!
The Grocery Store Challenge
Before I began meal planning we were spending about $150-$200 per week at the grocery store. I’d have a small list of things we needed, but I bought whatever I wanted and whatever looked good. We wasted a ton of money and food this way. I implemented a challenge to myself one week: Get out of the grocery store for under $100!
To accomplish this, I had to be organized enough to plan what we were going to eat each day. Now- before I get any further, let me clarify: I assumed meal planning was spending a Sunday prepping food and eating pre-packed containers of food each day. There is a difference between meal prep and meal planning. I DID NOT spend any time at all preparing food and organizing breakfast, lunch and dinner into containers. Now, I shopped with purpose (and a list) and simply planned what we would eat each day.
Meal Planning Benefits
The results have been amazing! I spend about $75-$80 a week in groceries. Sure, sometimes I spend more if I want to make something special (or if I am buying a bottle of wine). And of course, there are days that I must pop into Target for a gallon of milk because we are running low. We stopped wasting money on take-out and we stopped throwing away wasted food. I was also able to plan for my husband’s lunch and breakfast every day. We are saving between $270-$300 a week by not eating out. That includes my husband’s lunch and breakfast too. Let me tell you, eating lunch out every day gets EXPENSIVE!
We also feel better physically. I try to make healthy food at home, but pasta is still a once-a-week dish on our menu; don’t think I completely changed our eating habits, because I didn’t. We are eating proper portions (not restaurant sized portions). And I am more meaningful when shopping to ensure I am feeding my family a balanced diet. Not just buying what looks good!
Finally, one of the best meal planning benefits is not being stressed! I have a plan. I have the tools, ingredients and recipes. Being organized is such an AWESOME feeling. Having a meal plan for the week makes my busy life simpler. It is one less thing to worry or stress about.
Meal Planning Worksheet
How can YOU implement a meal plan? I came up with this simple meal planning worksheet that I am sharing with you. This is how I organize all our meals and grocery shopping.
Now granted, I don’t have every single ingredient listed on my sample grocery list because I have a lot of things in my pantry or freezer already (like boxes of pasta, ground beef and enchilada sauce). Bonus Tip- Stock up on things that are on sale. If canned vegetables, boxed pasta or canned soups are on sale, stock up. Don’t buy just because they are on sale though. Make sure you buy things that your family will eat.
Want your own meal planning worksheet? Click here!
More Tips for Meal Planning
I buy a big bag of salad for my husband’s lunch and top it with roasted chicken or pork…whatever we have left over from the night before. He LOVES leftover taco salads! I also buy carrot and pretzels sometimes and send that along with hummus for a snack.
Buy a big bag of frozen fruit (strawberries, blue berries, raspberries) from Costco or wherever. Put a serving of plain Greek Yogurt in a single-serve container with a handful of frozen fruit on top at night. Pop it in the fridge and viola- fruit and yogurt parfait for breakfast the next morning! This is a huge money and time saver!
Use Left Overs –
If we have tacos on Tuesday we usually have left over beans and corn. Use those ingredients in a chicken enchilada casserole later in the week!
Keep it SIMPLE-
Keep it simple is one of my favorite guidelines in life! Keep your meals simple. Use simple recipes. Don’t create more work for yourself. One of the ways I keep it simple – buy a fully cooked roasted chicken (or two). Our grocery store has fully cooked roasted chickens for $4.99 which come in a variety of flavors (our favorite is lemon pepper). You can’t buy a raw chicken, season it, and cook it for less than $4.99 (once you add in the value of your time). Find ways to simplify your meals. Maybe buying pre-cut/washed veggies is a good time saver for you.
Hope this helps you plan your meals, save money, time and effort! Don’t forget your own meal planning worksheet? Click here!