October 14, 2014

Meal Planning Made Simple

One of my goals for this offseason was to get organized with our meals and grocery store trips.  In order to keep to our budget (which isn't one of my strengths), I started meal planning each week.  I'll be honest, meal planning can be overwhelming.  But, I've come up with some ways that make it manageable that I thought might be helpful to share!

1.  Set aside a designated time to plan your meals for the week.  This was the biggest thing I had to learn when I started meal planning.  If I don't set aside a certain time to get it done, it doesn't happen.  For me, Sunday afternoons are perfect for sitting with my cookbooks and Pinterest to make our menu for the week since I go to the grocery store on Monday morning.

2.  Make your grocery list right after you finish your menu.  This has made the biggest difference in making a list of only what we need.  As soon as I've planned our meals, I check the refrigerator and pantry for the ingredients we actually need.  I try to be really careful about this to avoid buying things we already have, which has really helped with our budget.  

3.  Get organized.  For me, being organized is huge.  Now that I have a system that works for me, meal planning is actually enjoyable.  I have a certain notebook I write our menu and grocery list in so that it is all in the same place.  I also have my favorite cookbooks in a place that is easily accessible when I sit down on Sunday afternoons.  

4.  Create a board on Pinterest for just this week's meals.  This is one of the biggest ways I have gotten organized.  I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict, so going through all my Food boards can get a little overwhelming.  So I made a board called Menu that I only pin things to that I plan on cooking that week.  At the end of each week, I clear out this board so I can pin the next week's recipes.  It makes finding my pins a lot easier when I need to make the grocery list or cook the meal.  

5.  Go ahead and download coupons while meal planning.  When we are home we shop at Kroger, and I love that they have online coupons that you can go ahead and preload to your card.  I'm sure other grocery stores have this, so check into it.  My biggest thing with this is I only download coupons of things that are already on my list.  This keeps me from adding coupons of stuff we really don't need, but I want because it is a good deal.  It isn't a good deal if you don't use it. 

This is how I've made meal planning simple for me, but I would love to hear how you meal plan for your family!  Sticking to a budget and planning healthy meals is easier for me when I make a plan rather than walking into a grocery store without a list.  Check back on Monday and I'll share another week of meals to help you with your next meal plan!

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