Busy Mama Guest post
As busy mamas we always need more time in our day, right? Wouldn’t it be great to spend less time walking through the aisles of the grocery store and more time in other areas of our lives? Meal planning might just save your sanity… it doesn’t need to be elaborate, it just needs to be a plan that your family will love. (And there’s the added bonus of ditching the stress of the daily dinner chaos!) So let’s dive in…
Why Meal Plan?
- Save money. Did you know in 2015 the average American family spent $7023 on groceries? If you divide that out by month you get $585.25. That’s a scarily high number in any currency and for most people, it’s more than their car payment.
- Save time. Do you spend way too much time running between the store and your stove cooking meals that your family doesn’t care much about? I have and it’s not fun. Between working on my business and my full-time job I don’t have enough time to be making multiple meals or waiting in a drive-thru. I use meal planning to save hours each week that I can spend on more important things in my life.
- Provide healthier meals. Honestly, this wasn’t even a thought in my mind for the longest time, however, as I began making more meals from home I started cleaning up the way I cooked. Before I started becoming conscious of the nutrition I was providing I noticed that I was spending way more on each meal than I needed too. To make it worse the food I was buying was boxed and frozen prepared meals. Not healthy at all and they it didn’t go as far.
So now you know why you should meal plan let’s talk about the logistics.
I go back and forth between planning one week and several weeks at a time. It really just depends on the season and what stage of life I’m in at the moment. During the Summer and Fall (or Autumn) months, I find that it’s easier to plan for my family several weeks at a time. However, you’re just getting started in the meal planning sphere so I would suggest sticking to one week for now.
Grab your pen and pencil as well as your phone or tablet and let’s get started.
- Make a note of your family’s nutritional needs. This is important so you can plan meals around your specific circumstances and it’s front and center. Also, make a note of your family favorites. I do this by keeping a recipe database in Excel. You can also use Google Sheets or a notebook. Either way, you do it, just do it. Keep track of the recipe, where you can find it, and any changes you made to it. When I make a recipe I usually omit certain ingredients to simplify it or substituted something. If I do this I make a note so the next time I make this recipe I don’t make a costly mistake because I couldn’t remember what I changed.
- Go to your pantry/fridge/freezer and make notes of what’s inside. By doing this you are using what you’ve already spent your hard earned money on and not allowing it to go to waste. Shop from your own home before you spend more money at the store.
- Jump on your grocery store website and check out their special offers for the week. Shop these ads for meat especially. Since meat is the single biggest expense of almost every meal you can save a lot from shopping meat sales. Also, if you hit a good meat sale and stock up you can make multiple meals from one cut of meat. I typically will buy 3 cuts of meat per week and use that between all 7 days. This saves time and money since I’m cooking meals with similar ingredients.
- Start with only planning out dinner then work your way up to planning out the other meal times. When you’re just starting out meal planning can seem daunting, because you have to look at each meal and plan accordingly for each. When you first begin this process it’s easier to master one thing at a time then add on as you go.
Now that you know why and the basics of getting started you can begin planning meals out.
So meal planning doesn’t just happen from shopping your own kitchen cabinets and looking at sale ads. You actually have to sit down and plan out your meals now. If you like puzzles then meal planning may just be your cup of tea. Here are my top tips for making a successful plan:
- Get your family involved. Ask your family what they want. I usually give my husband two meal slots and my daughter one so they can’t complain about what I’m preparing for the week. I will make one new meal each week and fill in the remainder of the meals with my favorites.
- I consult the family favorites meal list. I keep a massive database of family favorites. If I cooked a meal and got rave reviews on it then I would add it to my database. I started a spreadsheet with the recipe name, URL and any notes about the recipe I will need to remember. When I am out of ideas there I go to Pinterest where I have a board with over a thousand recipes. I will search by dish and find what I think my family will enjoy.
- I stick to a strict rule when I’m looking for recipes. I do not make a recipe that has more than five ingredients, not including pantry staples. When recipes have an ingredient list longer than five main ingredients I look to see if it’s something I can tweak. Otherwise, I skip right over it. It takes too long and costs more money in the long run.
- I look for meals with similar ingredients. This is the single biggest time and money saver for me. One of the most versatile cuts of meat that I purchase is a beef roast. I can make so many different meals from that one cut of meat and all it takes is me cutting it up myself the way I want it. Usually, you just need to add a grain and vegetables as a side and you’ve got yourself a quick meal.
- Lastly, I make my meal plan on paper. I take the list of ingredients I have on hand and pair those up with recipes from the list I keep or find a new recipe to make. There are quite a few options you can search by ingredient and come up with a recipe option. One of the sites I used for years was Supercook. You just put your ingredients in and it spits out a recipe for you. I make a grocery list that is broken down by category. Those are meat, produce, dairy, aisles, and household. I categorize my list so it’s easier to get in and out of the store without overspending. I only buy what’s on the list and I go straight home to prep meals for the week. I typically only repackage meat and chop veggies. This saves quite a bit of time in the kitchen each night.
Meal planning doesn’t need to be difficult or time-consuming. Once you have a system down that works for you then you can add at other meal times. When you’re a superstar meal planner you will be planning breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner all in one sitting!
Meet our guest post author: Heather Farris from BlissfulIntent.com
Heather is a mom, military wife, accountant, and entrepreneur. She has a degree in Accounting and Management and recently delved deep into her own online business with her website, Blissful Intent. She’s on a mission to help moms to live more intentionally by nurturing their journey through motherhood. She is passionate about helping families with budgeting, meal planning and she even enjoys talking about insurance and why you need it!
You can connect with Heather on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and visit her at Blissful Intent. Plus she has a fabulous resource to share with you – 7 tips for Meal Planning Success.
I hope you enjoyed this guest post… are you a Busy Mama who could write a guest post about how to bring more positivity, power or productivity into our lives? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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