Many years ago, when Nathan and I were first starting to budget and get our finances under control, I quickly realized that our groceries budget was out of control. I was spending way too much money on groceries and way too long at the store trying to figure out what to buy to make good dinners.
I quickly learned to meal plan and over the years have tried a few different ways to do it, that have all worked at different points. The one thing they all have in common is that they require me to plan (hence the name meal plan), they require me to make a shopping list (of some sort) and they all save me time and money.
Here are my tips and ways of meal planning:
#1: Look at the calendar: If your family is like mine, every week is slightly different. So the first thing that I do is look at our calendar and see what nights we will be home, which nights need to be a quick dinner or a crockpot meal. This allows me to not stress each night on what we are eating and to have a plan in the morning. If I have more time at home that day, I can make a meal that takes longer to prepare. However, if I’m working until 30 minutes before dinner, I plan for something simple.
#2: Find Recipes and Create a Shopping List: This is my current way of doing my meal planning. I look through recipes in my recipe books (I have put all my favorites in one book) or go onto pinterest to find new recipes. I like pinterest because I can search by types of recipes I want for the week based on our calendar or time of year. I then create my shopping list while at home so that I can double check and see what I need to buy and what I already have in the kitchen.
#3: Use a Meal Planning Service: For many years I used Emeals and I loved it. They created a meal plan for me based on what my family liked to eat or any food preferences and then made the shopping list for me. Now they even have an app and you can remove items you don’t need to purchase and add things you need for your family to the list. It was a nice variety of meals and got me out of the rut of cooking the same meals over and over. It does have an annual fee, but is worth it if you don’t have time to plan recipes and write lists each month.
#4: Purchase Meal Delivery Kits: I have tried many, if not most, of the Meal Delivery Services. I have done Hello Fresh and Freshly and enjoyed them both. This is nice because you still get to cook, but all the items are sent to you each week. You go online and pick which meals you would like and then they package and send them to you. It is the most expensive choice, but can still save you money and works well with a budget. My drawback to this option was that I still needed to go to the store for other items, such as snacks, breakfast food, lunches, et.
#5: Online Shopping: I must mention that my favorite thing currently is being able to order my groceries online and then go and pick them up later. This allows me to not only shop in my pajamas and order groceries on my own schedule, but I can price compare between the grocery store and target and see where my best deals are currently. This has been saving me about $120/month on groceries!
I hope that these suggestions help you have a more relaxing dinner schedule and little more money in your pocket. How do you plan for meals each week?