By learning how to use a weekly meal planner, you can get organized to save a lot of time and money every month. Read this article to find 7 simple steps to create an easy and effective meal planner to make your meal prep a snap
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How to Use a Weekly Meal Planner
Once a week or every two weeks (if you can go that long between grocery shopping trips, like my family does—and which I recommend if you really want to save time and money!), sit down and write out your plan for what you will eat for your meals.
To plan for two weeks’ worth of meals at a time, make sure to use the items, especially produce, that are most perishable first. So use bananas and berries in the first week, for example, and save apples and oranges, which last longer (especially when you keep them in the fridge or cold storage area) for the second week. Also supplement fruits, vegetables, meats, and so on with canned or frozen items in the second week.
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Using Your Meal Planner Effectively
Follow these 7 simple steps as you use your weekly meal planner.
1. Plan one week’s worth of meals at a time as you use your meal planner.
To keep things simple (especially if you have never used a weekly meal planner before), plan the first week’s worth of meals first.
2. Repeat a few of the same meals from week one in your second week of meal plans.
Then when you plan the next week’s meals, if you decide to plan two weeks’ worth of meals at a time, stick with a few (or several! or all!) of the same meals that are your family’s favorite. I have heard that most families have only about a dozen meals that they eat regularly, with the occasional new or different dish for variety. (That is true for our family, as well!)
And there is nothing wrong with that! If there are tasty, inexpensive meals that your family loves to eat, you don’t need to spend the time and money and mental energy to come up with new meals every week. You can save that for when the kids are older or you are retired or life otherwise slows down!
3. Inventory what you have on hand as you fill out your meal planner form.
As you plan your meals, quickly go through your food so that you can use items from your fridge, freezer, and pantry in your meals during the week so that it will not go bad and so you will not buy items that you do not need more of.
However, if you find great deals on food items that your loves that you have room to store in your freezer or pantry or cupboards, then definitely stock up! Use the handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet below so that you will be able to recognize when a food item is at a great price so you can stock up!
4. Fill out your meal planner and create your shopping list in advance.
Plan to create your meal plan and shopping list a day or two before your shopping trip so that you don’t feel rushed and so you don’t have so much to do on shopping day.
5. Be sure to check the sales as you use your meal planner.
As you plan your weekly meals, check the weekly ads at the grocery store or stores (we generally go to two to snag the best deals at each) you shop at, and then plan at least some of your meals around what is on sale.
6. Consider having weekly dinner theme nights.
You can simplify your meal plan considerably if you stick with a theme for each (or most) of the nights of the week. For example, when we were in college and working to get out of debt, Monday night was more better mac and cheese night (macaroni and cheese with vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions—we still eat this meal a couple of times a month!).
So you might plan a meatloaf Monday (or meatless Monday, or mac and cheese Monday), taco Tuesday, pizza Wednesday (another of our favorites—this is actually one we currently do), casserole Thursday, and so forth.
7. Plan to use your leftovers.
Plan one or more lunch or dinner meals where you eat the leftovers from earlier in the week. I love leftovers because they are such a great time (and mental energy :)) saver! All you have to do is pop the food in the oven or microwave, and you have a meal in minutes! One handy trick is to keep a list of your leftovers on the fridge so that you do not forget about them.
Meal Planning Made Even Easier: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service
If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like Emeals or $5 Meal Plans. Emeals costs as little as $5 per month and $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month. With these services, they do all of the planning for you. They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And both come with a 14-day free trial, so if this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out emeals here and $5 Meal Plans here.
And with a plan like those from Freezeasy, you can save even more time by preparing 10 simple and nutritious meals in an hour that you can then freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, simply throw them in the slow cooker or the oven, and voila! With plans for as little as $8 per month (and no more than $10 per month), your money is well spent if it keeps you from going out to eat or buying expensive grocery store convenience foods. Learn more about Freezeasy here.
If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.
One of the biggest budget categories for most families is groceries, but the awesome thing is that it is also one of the areas where you can cut back the most! Using a simple weekly meal planner like the one available above (and sticking to it!) is one of the best ways to save money on groceries each month.
Read this article to find more than 50 ideas for how to save money on groceries!
Have you used a meal planner before? Do you have awesome tips or ideas for effective meal planning? What are your favorite go-to meals? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Leave a comment below to let me know!
Invitation to Share
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