I have done meal planning posts before, but today I wanted to take some of the information and make it more organized and easier to follow. For several years our food budget was $75 a week to feed a family of four. I often still stay under the $100 mark, although I have since been able to raise our budget to around $125 per week. There are four basic steps to the way I like to do my meal planning.
This is when you are collecting food throughout the year to use later. In the summer, for example, you might grow a vegetable garden and freeze, can, or dehydrate your extra veggies to use later throughout the year.
Maybe you made a big pot of soup and you can’t eat all of it before it goes bad, so you freeze half. If you made pancakes or waffles, maybe you put some extra of those in the freezer too.
We’re doing a little bit of work and planning now so that we can have “free” meals later.
Stocking up also refers to stocking your pantry with basic staples: flour, sugar, salt and pepper, etc. that you want to always have on hand.
We should be able to dedicate about $10 each week to stocking up on basic necessities.
How many times have you gotten home from the store and realized you spent money to buy something you already had?
Taking inventory means that we start our weekly plan by looking in the freezer, pantry, and refrigerator and seeing what we have that we can use before we spend money on additional food.
If we froze soup three weeks ago, we can put that somewhere on the menu this week.
If we already have oatmeal, pancakes, and bagels, then we don’t need to spend money to buy cereal this week because breakfasts are covered.
Is there chicken or beef in the freezer? Then plan something on the menu this week to use it up instead of buying more meat.
Have your meal chart next to you as you write out your grocery list.
Write an estimated cost next to each item on the list.
I like to do my meal planning and grocery list on Sundays because that is usually when the stores begin new sales for the week and it is the day new coupons come out in the paper.
Click here to see an example of how I like to build a grocery list.
For tips on getting produce at the lowest prices possible, check out this post.
The easiest way to stay on budget and make sure that you are using what you have is to create a meal chart.
Make a chart for the entire week and include every meal as well as snacks. Many families plan for dinner, but that leaves 14 other meals throughout the week unaccounted for.
As you are filling out the chart, you can stick in left-overs or “Free Spaces” throughout the week. I like to leave at least one free space for lunch and one for dinner in case we want to go out with friends or do a pizza night. If not, then that space can get filled with left-overs or something from the freezer.
Have your calendar of activities nearby as you plan your meal chart. That way if there is a PTA meeting or soccer practice one night, you can be sure to plan a quick meal or something you can throw in the slow cooker in the morning. Then make sure to make a note on your calendar to put dinner in the crock pot that morning.
Here is an example of the kind of meal chart I like to use. You can print this one for yourself, if you’d like. Click here to print a pdf file of the family meal plan calendar.
Be sure to check out my recipes page for dinner ideas! 🙂
And I’d love to have you join me on Facebook.