Do you feel like meal planning is an overwhelming task? If so, I'm here to help! Meal planning doesn't have to be a headache and there is no need to plan your meals out for a whole month. Instead, we suggest starting off small and meal planning for one week at a time. Meal planning doesn't mean everything is entirely homemade either! We are big fans of grabbing a $5 pizza and some bread sticks for our family movie night.. I will be sharing with y'all how I meal plan the easy way while sticking to our budget.
There are three easy steps I created for my meal planing method:
- Select on sale ingredients from local ads (My favorite is Aldi)
- Match ingredients with your favorite recipes
- Shopping for your weekly meals ingredients.
These steps may seem like common sense but they are critical to saving you money. The most important part is selecting ingredients that are on sale. This is how I stick to our grocery budget of under $100 a week for our family of three. Some weeks, we don't spend the whole $100 and other weeks I use every last penny of it. Now for those of you that are wondering, yes that includes everything from tissue to cleaning products and of course food!
I always try to have essentials on-hand like flour, olive oil, stock, pasta, etc.. If you don't have those things on-hand, you may have to spend a little more on your first week (or split it up on weeks you have the extra room in your budget). I plan my weekly meals on Wednesday when our sale ad comes out, but you can do this on the weekend or whatever day you have off. You want to look at your calendar for the week before meal planning so you can see how many meals you need to plan for. There is no reason plan a meal on the night your kid has soccer practice and you know you are going to hit up the drive-thru (we won't judge you). Now let me break the steps down so you can see my planning process.
This is why I love Aldi* (besides their affordable prices), they put the important stuff front and center so even if I'm pressed for time, I can quickly glance at the front page and start creating a meal plan. Looking at this ad, I can see that pineapple, avocado and salmon are on sale. So I know I can make Grilled Salmon and Pineapple with Avocado Dressing on one night. If you don't have a lot of recipes under your belt, you can simply type in "salmon and pineapple recipes" into google and have an entire list pop up (Pinterest is another great resource for this). You may have noticed the pot roast kit on this ad, I tend to stay away from those as we don't save as much money using them for our family.
*This is NOT a sponsored Aldi post, we just love the brand!
Next, I see chicken breast on sale for $1.69! We eat a lot of chicken in our house, so I would usually stock up if I have extra money left over in my budget. I also see mushrooms on sale so I could make Lemon and Garlic Chicken With Mushrooms. This works perfectly because I already need lemon for my salmon dish so I will by a bag of lemons and use any extra for lemon water.
I would use that same chicken that's on sale along with the strawberries and green leaf lettuce to make a version of this yummy Strawberry chicken salad with strawberry balsamic dressing. I would add some crusty bread on the side too!
I would use the beef chuck roast that's on sale along with some onions and carrots to make this delicious recipe for the Perfect Pot Roast. I would need a bag of onions for my salad so this will use some of the extras from that bag and my leftover crusty bread (Who am I kidding? There wouldn't be any leftover bread so I would buy an extra loaf. Don't be like me!)
That is what the planning process looks like for me. The more you do it, the easier it will become and you will create your meal plans faster. You may be wondering about the rest of the week. And what about breakfast and lunch? I like to keep these things simple. On Friday nights, we do a pizza movie night with our little family. We usually just grab a $5 pizza and some bread sticks, I will make some chocolate chip cookies for dessert! We usually re-purpose the weeks dinners for our lunches. For example, I would take the leftover Lemon and Garlic Chicken With Mushrooms and add it to some pasta with Alfredo sauce or use the Perfect Pot Roast for sandwiches.
For breakfast, we eat a lot of eggs! We make a Tennessee Benedict which is like Eggs Benedict but you use a biscuit instead of an english muffin, bacon (or sausage) instead of canadian bacon and sausage gravy instead of hollandaise sauce. We will also make big batches of brioche french toast and freeze them, pulling them out as needed and popping them into the toaster. Cereal or fruit smoothies are often eaten for breakfast too.
Now that you matched the sale ads to your recipes for the week, you can add whatever essentials you need to your list like eggs, milk, soda, tissue, cleaners. Then you can grab any coupons and head out to get your groceries for the week (If your shopping at Aldi, don't forget your shopping bags and quarter!).
You did it! Now do it again every week...With some patience and practice you can meal plan in no time and the stress of being asked "Whats for dinner" will stress you no more! Meal planning probably won't change your life but it can make your busy week easier. Experiment with a system that works for your family, and remember to give yourself some slack if your plans change or your meal didn't turn out perfect.
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