Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Weigh-in Wednesday - Meal Planning

Something I'm a huge believer in is meal planning.  I started this when I was a poor college kid trying to stretch a dollar as much as possible and it's continued over the past 10 - 11 years!

Meal planning isn't just great for budgeting, but it's also wonderful for living a healthy lifestyle and making those healthy food choices. Not only can you plan a balanced meal, but you can also avoid the urge to swing through a drive thru since you already know what you'll be eating at home!

Today I'm going to tell you how we do meal planning for our family with some of my personal tips to make this stick for your own...

Here is my quick tip list for all you get-to-the-point people out there:
  1. Buy a dedicated dry-erase calendar for your meals, this should be visible by everyone.
  2. Buy a secondary dry-erase board for grocery shopping needs that you think of between trips
  3. Utilize the extra items you have in your pantry when thinking of meals for the coming week/s
  4. Put fresh produce meals at the beginning of the week to ensure that you use the produce before it goes bad hanging out in your fridge/pantry.
  5. Write down your list and stick to it!!! It's easy to deviate from your list, but the more you stick to it the more you save, the less you waste and the healthier you are!!
We have a dedicated meal calendar, mentioned above, at home that is stuck to our freezer door, front and center, in the kitchen! This is where I update the calendar each month, plus what our evening meals will be. (The calendar above has the start of September at the top and the end of August at the bottom. Our calendar right now looks a little barren due to my week long trip happening next week.)
We also have another dry erase board that we have on the side of the fridge. These dry erase boards are for us to add items to our grocery list as needs arise or items run out.
We typically try to plan for 2 - 3 weeks depending on what we have on hand and what we will need to buy. What I will do is go through our pantry, fridge and freezer to determine what items we already have on hand.  I then decide what we can make utilizing those ingredients.  For example, if we have frozen meatballs, those can turn into BBQ Meatball Sandwiches or Spaghetti with Meatballs. If we have spiral pasta and a couple cans of tuna, that can become tuna casserole only needing mixed veggies and mushroom soup to be purchased!
On the day I'm ready to meal plan, I grab our smaller dry erase board with the beginning of our grocery list and a pen and paper. With the pen and paper I will write down the days we need to plan meals for and start writing out our menu. I then add any ingredients we need to buy to our dry erase board (pictures below).
When it's time to head to the grocery store, I hand write our shopping list based on what we are getting at which store and we are ready to go (picture below). I am also very anal in the fact that I try to write the items down in the order that we will happen upon them...this saves us the "Oh shoot, we forgot blah, blah that is 7 aisles behind us," moments.

I know it sounds complicated, but I promise it's A LOT easier than you think!!! You'll also be amazed at the difference you see in your grocery funds and excitement you have with meal planning/eating. :-D
Do any of you meal plan? What are your tips and tricks? I'm always open for improvements to my process!!

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