I I feel like I have finally somewhat conquered something in my 36 years of living...the weekly chore of meal planning and buying groceries. I know, I know, it seems trivial, but seriously, I used to spend HOURS on this and come out spending waaay more money and time than I intended. I tried clipping coupons every week, playing "the grocery game", pinning recipes like crazy...I was on a mission to figure out the best way to plan meals for our family on a limited budget and limited time.
Here's what I've found that works for my family. Obviously you can tweak it to fit your needs and schedule, but hopefully it will help some of you who are in the same boat I was in. This has truly been a lifesaver for our family and has saved me so much time and money.
So here's my process of meal planning:
- Create a database of your recipes.
Pinterest is a great place to find new recipes, but if you're like me and have over 2,000 recipes on your recipe board, it can be hard to go back and find what you're looking for.
However you like to collect your recipes you use on a regular basis (notecards, the computer, a website, a recipe book, etc.) keep them all in one spot, organized by type so you can find them easily.
I chose to keep my database of recipes on plantoeat.com. You can enter in your favorite recipes either with a recipe clipper that will automatically insert a recipe straight from the internet into your file, or you can manually type it in. Once you import your recipes, you can then plan your meals for the week and name your menus for future reference. It will even generate a grocery list for you based on your meal plan. They offer a free trial and then the subscription is $4.95/month. Totally worth it in my opinion. (I am not paid to promote this company--just a fan.)
- Make weekly menus that you can rotate out.
I have 6 weekly menus that I rotate out on Plantoeat.com. Therefore, when I am planning meals for the week, I just pick 1 of the menus and print out the grocery list on Plan to Eat. Some of our family favorite recipes like spaghetti and tacos are on multiple menus and others are only used once. Sometimes I'll change up the menu and add in a recipe from Pinterest that I'd like to try. If we like it, I leave it in the rotation.
When creating my menus I try to follow this format just to make meal planning less overwhelming:
Sunday: Comfort food
Wednesday: Eat at church
Friday: Pizza/Eat out
(On the days that I work, I try to plan crockpot recipes or foil dinners that I can just throw in the oven. I plan the guinea pig dinners (aka Pinterest recipes) for the days that I'm off and have more time to cook.)
Here's a screenshot of one of my meal plans on Plan to Eat.
- Write down your entire grocery list in one place.
I use this handy little meal planner that I made a couple years ago and write down my meal plan for the week and grocery list (including everything on the grocery list from Plan to Eat.)
Click here to see the original post and download the meal planner.
- I order my groceries online using Kroger Clicklist.
Online grocery ordering is the BOMB! If you have this in your area, I highly recommend doing it. I use Kroger Clicklist and it is the best thing that's happened since sliced bread. Using my grocery list, I order my groceries online, schedule a pick-up for the next day, and then pick them up. You don't even have to get out of our car! As a mom of 3 kids who eat me out of house and home, I feel like Kroger has literally given me my life back.(If you don't have Kroger in your area, check with HEB and Wal-Mart--they have many participating stores as well.) Not only do I save time by not having to drag my kiddos to the grocery store for 2 hours (plus driving time), I also save money because I don't impulse buy and I can check and see what I have on hand, which eliminates buying another box of sandwich baggies when I already have 2 in the drawer.
- Prep food for the week on Sunday.
I schedule my pick-up for Sunday and then come home and prep snacks and lunches for the entire week. This usually takes me a couple hours, but saves sooo much time and stress throughout the week. I will go into this further in another blog post.
Ya'll I am not an organized person by nature, so when I get one aspect of my life organized and can stick with it, I want everyone to know about it! Hopefully this helps someone else out too.
What makes meal planning easier for you? Feel free to comment and share your tips and ideas!
**All opinions in this post are my own. I am not compensated to endorse any company mentioned above.**
Happy Meal Planning!