When I first started meal planning, on average, I saved
– $150 every week. I was going to the supermarket every single day which meant I would always end up with lots of impulse buys. We were also eating take out much more because it was so much easier than shopping and cooking.
– 6 hours a week. Not only was going to the grocery store every day costing me money, it was also costing me time. Everyday it was a hassle deciding what we were going to have, then going to buy the ingredients, then actually cooking.
Imagine what you could do with an extra 6 hours and $150 every week!
Now that you are all with me (you would be crazy to not meal plan, right?) I am going to share my top 10 tips for making your meal plan work for you and your family.
1. Do what works for you! When I posted about our meal plan here, over a year ago, I was meal planning and shopping once a week. I have since found that it is much more efficient and saves even more money if I meal plan and shop once a fortnight. Don’t get locked into your system, if you think meal planning once a month would work better, try it! You have nothing to lose, and if it doesn’t work you can go back to your old plan.
2. Check Everyone’s Schedule. Make a note of days that you are working late, the kids have activities or you are eating out for the night. If you are going to be home late plan for quick meals or something from the freezer. My Husband shift works, I always make a note of the nights he is working so I can prepare dinner for him to take.
3. Create a Recipe System. Work out a simple system for saving recipes that works for you. You could put them all into a binder, save them online or create a pinterest board of your favourites. Lots of recipe websites will let you save your favourite recipes, I like to use taste.com and always make a note when meal planning so I remember where the recipe is saved.
4. Ask your Family. Get the whole family involved when meal planning by asking each person to pick a meal or two for the week. Kids love to feel involved and will be more likely to eat something they picked (if you have trouble with them picking unhealthy foods, give them each a category to pick from like chicken, pork, pasta etc.)
5. Create a List of Favourites. Make a list of all your family favourite recipes, the ones that everyone loves and are quick and easy to cook. Use this list as your base for meals each week.
6. Add New Recipes. Each week add a new recipe to your meal plan. If it is liked by everyone, add it to your favourites list. This will stop you from getting bored with the same foods every week and will increase your favourites list.
7. Keep a Record. Write your meal plan for each week down on a calendar or in your day planner. You could also take a photo of your meal plan and create an album on your phone or upload to Pinterest. Keeping a record means that when you are stuck for inspiration you can go back and have a look at what you were eating months ago. It also means that if you have a really busy week you can pull a meal plan from the archives to save some time.
8. Meal Planning and Shopping Day. Set a day to do your meal planning and shopping each week and you will be much more likely to stick to it. I write our meal plan on Thursday night after everyone goes to bed and do the shopping on Friday when I am kid free. When writing my shopping list I jot down my meal plan on the back with the date for each day. Then when I am buying food, I am able to make sure it will be used before it’s used by date.
9. Shop the Sales. There is a couple of different ways to do this. You can look at catalogues to see what is on special then use those foods to create your meal plan. I try to do my meal plan as quickly as possible so I don’t always have time to do this. However for expensive items that we buy regularly (Chicken Breast is something we buy a lot of, also nappies, cleaning products etc), I look online and see which store has these items the cheapest and shop for the fortnight there.
10. Food Preparation. While you are unpacking the groceries, prepare as much food as you can for the week. I cut up all our vegetables and store in Tupperware containers and divide and cut up meat for each meal. Then when it comes time to prepare the meal, everything is already cut and ready to cook. Cutting everything at once also saves dirtying cutting boards and knives everyday.
Meal planning can seem a little daunting to start with but it doesn’t have to be. Grab a piece of paper, write down some meals and hey presto, you’ve got yourself a meal plan. The most important thing is making it work for your family, keep tweaking and changing until you have the perfect meal plan for your clan. No more cold sweats when your kids charge through the door yelling “Mum, what’s for dinner?”
Do you have any other meal planning tips? What keeps you motivated, inspired and on track when creating a meal plan for your family?