The 5 steps to meal planning and a free printable

There is no doubt that one of the best ways to save money each month is to spend less on groceries and dining out.  To tackle that task, meal planning is a must.  The good news is that you don’t have to be a type-A organized person to make meal planning work for you! Today I’m sharing the benefits of meal planning, the steps to meal planning like a pro, and our family’s favorite (and easy) meals.

Benefits Of Meal Planning

When our family first started planning out what we were going to eat for our meals, we realized that we were spending an extra $500 each month on unnecessary groceries and takeout.  I don’t know about you, but $500 is a LOT of money in our family.  I was shocked (and horrified) that we were spending so much money on extra food.  What could you do with an extra couple hundred dollars each month?  

Not only does planning out your meals help your family save serious money, but it also helps you map out your week.  When I plan our meals, I am forced to look over my upcoming week.  I know when my husband has to work late or if we have an event for our kids.  Taking time to focus on your upcoming week is a proven strategy to become more organized!

How To Meal Plan Like A Pro

  1. Look at your family’s calendar to determine when you need to make dinner.  Are there any nights when you’ll be going out to eat or to a friend’s house for dinner?  Also, determine if there are any busy nights that you could benefit from having a crockpot meal ready to go.  It’s so easy to pick up dinner on to go when your night is crazy.  Having dinner ready in the crock pot keeps you from spending extra money on takeout.
  2. Look in your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator to see what foods you already have.  When you’re aware of what you have in stock at your house, you can plan meals around the foods you already have.  This helps limit any unnecessary purchases at the grocery store.  If you have ground beef or chicken already in your house, then plan your meals around that.  Write out as many meals with food that you already have as possible.  Assign each meal a day so you know when you will make it.
  3. Check the ads to see what your local stores have on sale.  Always check the price on what you will cook for the main course.  If there is a sale on chicken thighs, then choose a dinner that incorporates that main dish.  Meat can get rather expensive, so consider having one or two dinners a week that don’t require meat at all.  You can also limit meat to just dinners and keep breakfast and lunch rather simple.
  4. Pull out your coupons to see what you can purchase at a discounted rate.  If you have a coupon for $1.00 off frozen veggies, then you can put veggies down as a side dish.  Keep track of your coupons in an envelope so they are always easy to find.
  5. Once you have all your meals planned out, make your grocery list and stick to it!  Before you walk in the store, make sure you think of all the foods/items that you will need for all your meals.  The more thorough you are with your list before you head to the store, the less likely you are to make impulse purchases.  If possible, keep the kids at home!  I don’t know about your children, but mine always throw extra items in the cart that we don’t need.  

Stick To The Plan

I’ll be honest with you, there will be nights when you just don’t want what you planned for dinner.  It happens to us and we are so tempted to throw in the towel and order a pizza or pick up Chick-fil-a.  Instead of steering away from your plan, consider swapping meal days so you are cooking a different meal than you had planned.  This gives you a change but it keeps you on track to stick with your meal plan!  

A Few Of Our Favorite Meals

I like to keep things simple in our house (the easier, the better).  I’ve linked some of our favorite simple (and inexpensive) meals that are a hit with everyone under our roof!

Easy Sheet Pan Lemon Herb Chicken: Nothing’s better than a dinner that only requires one pan to clean up!  I change up the veggies depending what’s on sale (or in season) at our grocery store.

Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Potatoes: The perfect easy crockpot meal that will please everyone.  Plus, it’s all in the crockpot so no extra work!

Crispy Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker:  I always feel like a rockstar mom and wife when I walk in and dinner is done.  We have these chicken thighs for dinner at least every 2 weeks. My kids eat better than they ever have before when I serve their favorite “crockpot chicken.”

To learn more about how to save money at the grocery store, click HERE.  

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