Meal Planning to Save Time and Money
I don’t consider myself an organized person, but you don’t have to be to meal plan. Most of my organization comes out of necessity. My memory is one of my most lacking features, so I try to keep anything that I need to remember in a specific place or else it’s lost forever. I’m also organized about things that will save money. Planning my weekly meals is one of those things.
I don’t plan for a month at a time like some people do. I just don’t know what will be going on that far out. Also, I don’t plan the meals by day. By leaving it open, I might feel like cooking hamburgers on Monday night or put that meal off until Thursday. The versatility allows me to adjust the meals based on what I’m feeling and what chaotic mess that particular day is. Some people are so strict about how they plan their menu for the week that just planning out the meals is stressful, not to mention cooking them. If you like having some variety, but want to have a list of meals planned out and ready for your choosing, here’s how I do meal planning to save time, money, and stress.
First Things First
The first thing I do, before even thinking about picking up a pen and starting a list of ingredients, is check the cabinets and freezer. I’ll usually find part of the ingredients for at least one or two meals already at home.
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Then, the next thing I do is pull out the circular and start looking for deals. Now, I don’t shop at fifteen different stores to save the most amount of money because that is counterproductive to saving time. If you do, more power to you. I don’t have the patience for that, though. I do look at the advertisements at the three stores that I shop regularly. I’ll determine which one has the best deals for that week. Then I start planning my weekly meals around those sales.
Grocery shopping this way allows me to vary my meals from week to week since most stores don’t put the same items on sale every week. This also allows me to save the maximum amount of money without factoring in coupons or rebates. Don’t get me wrong. I do use coupons. Planning my meals around sales and then using coupons on the non-sale items allows for the maximum amount of savings.
Make The Shopping List
Once I have my meals ready, I start making a list of ingredients for each meal. I jot down the sale prices and brand name next to the items that are on sale. That way I can make sure I’m buying the right brand if that’s a factor. I’ll also add to the list any miscellaneous items I have to buy for other meals and snacks.
Use Your Coupons and Rebates
Once I have my list completed, I’ll pull out my coupons and start searching for any that match items on my list. Once I’ve finished going through my list with coupons, I’ll pull up my rebate apps and start going through them to see if there are any rebates for the items I need to buy. For a list of the grocery rebate apps I swear by, check out my post here. Once my list is ready, it’s time to shop.
Make a List of Dinner Options
After doing my shopping, I write the list of dinner options on a section of wall in my kitchen that I painted with chalkboard paint. (If you’re interested in making your own chalkboard paint, check out my easy recipe here.)
Having a list literally written on the wall helps me know what options I have available. When it’s time to start supper, I’ll either cook what I’m in the mood for or let the kids and hubby vote on it. Since I began planning my meals this way, I no longer have the stress of trying to create a meal that I don’t have all the ingredients for or that I don’t have the time or energy to make. Peace of mind is a powerful thing.
Also, by my calculations, I’ve cut about fifty dollars a week off our grocery expense. That’s like getting paid to grocery shop. If you have any tips for how you save money or time meal planning, I’d love to hear about it.