Every time I would even hear the words “meal plan”, it absolutely made me cringe. I mean, really…..Who has time for that? I am a very busy mom who works outside of the home all week. I barely have time to make sure everybody eats! How in the world am I suppose to find the time to “meal plan”?
Then, I realized that if I make the time to do it JUST ONCE, it will save me lots of time and money, and who doesn’t need a little extra time AND money?
So… here I go, sharing all my secrets!
1. Brainstorm a List of Meals You Already Eat
Quickly make you a list of the meals you cook on a regular basis. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, use this time to search Pinterest for all the exciting new recipes that you are going to start feeding your family! This is not the time to makeover your entire life! We all want our kids to eat healthier, but you can always do that a little later. Baby steps. Let’s get a grip on life first!
For now, you want to make this as easy as possible and get off to a good start. Don’t overwhelm yourself. We all tend to cook the same recipes over and over, so for now, just write down as many of those meals as possible.
2. Make a menu
Next, make a menu designating the foods that you have already listed to certain days. Start slow. If you are just beginning this, try doing a week at a time. There are plenty of free printables available to help you. You can download mine below.Once you work yourself up to a month’s worth of meals, a pre-printed calendar works best. If you are already making enough meals to fill up a monthly calendar, great! If not, no worries. Just pick a few meals to repeat. And don’t beat yourself up if your meals don’t live up to Pinterest standards. Mommin’ is HARD! We are all doing the best we can.
The goal is to create a monthly menu with a grocery list that you can re-use month after month. We don’t want to have to go through this process every month. If we do it once, our work is done. We can always go in and add a little variety if we want to, but that will be easy once the larger plan is in place.
3. Make a grocery list
Depending on how many times per month you grocery shop ( I recommend as few as possible to keep you on budget), make your grocery list based on the meals that you have planned for that time period. For example, if you shop weekly, you will need 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (unless you are not home for these meals). If you shop every 2 weeks, plan for 14. I work outside the home, so I only need to plan for breakfast and dinner during the week, and all 3 meals for the weekends. You have to adjust this to your needs. All households run differently.
Taking one day at a time, go through your menu and create your grocery list. Stick as closely to your list as possible. This will keep you on budget EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Make a separate list for staples such as milk, flour, sugar, etc. Keep this list so that each month you can use it to check your pantry and see what items need to be purchased and what you already have. This prevents you from buying duplicate items at the store “just in case”.
Once your grocery list is created, it is done! You can save this list and re-use it month after month without having to constantly make a completely new list.
4. Be realistic
If you already know that you are going to buy chocolate chip cookies at the store, go ahead and put them on the list. Give yourself a little freedom. The idea is not to completely restrict you to the point of wanting to quit, but to give you freedom from worrying about this time sucking chore.
Take Your Time Back!
I absolutely loathe trying to figure out what’s for dinner every night on my way home from work. By planning these meals in advance, I never have to wonder or run by the store on my way home because I already have my menu and all the things on the list. It saves A LOT of money, and, most of all, this mom’s sanity.
I’ve never met one person who says they just love to meal plan, but with a little preparation, it can add hours back to your day in the long run, and what mom couldn’t use that? I just wish I had done this sooner.