Meal planning is one way you can make your schedule smoother and less complicated. By planning meals ahead of time, be it for a week or even for the whole month, you can also tighten the belt on your budget, too. The process is fairly simple; all you need is a calendar and a list of your family’s favorite dinners. You’ll probably need to bring a little flexibility and creativity to the table as well.
Write It Down
Once a week, I check over the weekly ads, write down the lowest prices and then head to the store and price match the items. Then, on Sundays, my husband and I will plan what we want to eat all week. I also recommend getting the kids involved in menu planning. Not only can you teach them rudimentary budgeting, it’s also fun to get their feedback and input. A chalkboard weekly menu or printable sheet for the task board keeps everyone looped in, too.
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Full Sale Ahead
A lot of my meal planning comes from having stocked up at the grocery store. I love to plan meals based around what’s on sale. For instance, every now and then I find a 10lb bag of chicken for around $6. Now, being as frugal as I am, I’ll stock up on chicken at this price and separate the chicken pieces in Ziploc bags, enough to feed my family for one meal, before putting them in the freezer. When I have a recipe that calls for chicken, I have just enough for one meal. I also do this with fish and other meats. Lastly, you’ll only help yourself by stocking up on non-perishable staples, such as rice, pasta and frozen vegetables, when these items goes on sale, too.
Think With Your Stomach
Sometimes, a sale will dictate the meal plan and when this happens, it’s a good opportunity to try new recipes. Being creative is key to meal planning. We are not afraid to try new ideas or modify recipes we find. Start simple and use simple ingredients as your base for a new or different recipe.
It’s also important to plan for one meal helping out the next. For instance, if Monday’s recipe calls for half of a tomato, plan a meal that uses the remaining half on Tuesday. The same idea applies to leftovers. For instance, on Sunday nights we make one large crock-pot meal that will last us for lunches all week. For busy families, the slow cooker cooking can virtually guarantee a hot meal on the table without having to rush home from work to prepare.
Mix up your routine by choosing a week of international meals or try going vegetarian for a while – you may be in for a delicious surprise. Don’t let meal planning intimidate you. Instead, be inspired!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Tina Mapes is an assistant branch manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union and a mother to three children. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.