Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Meal Planning For The Real World

Meal planning. It's a huge key to saving money on groceries and whether you follow a blog, read a magazine article, etc., you'll hear it's praises sung. We've definitely discussed it here at Nine on a Nickel and I'm a firm believer in it!

However, most of the meal planning instructions I see look something like this-

Meatless Mondays
Taco Tuesdays
Pasta Wednesdays
Crockpot Thursdays
Etc. Etc. Etc.

Well, maybe that structure works great for some, but flexibility is the name of the game in our house! Our schedules can get a little nutty around here, to say the least. I may need a crockpot meal one week on a Monday and the next week I may need it on a Thursday. So what's the chef to do?

I like to look at the calendar before I plan my meals for the next week (or sometimes two if I'm really on the ball!) If multiple kids have activities on the same night, I know that might be a good night for a crockpot meal or even leftovers (everyone can heat a plate of food when it's convenient for them.) I do have a basic idea of what I will be cooking each week and then I just fill in the dates and details. It looks something like this:

-Pasta (a weekly staple here. It's cheap, quick and a crowd pleaser.)
-Homemade pizza (most always a weekend treat. Sometimes we splurge for carryout!)
-Breakfast for supper night (cheap, easy AND a kid pleaser)
-Leftover night (if you are cooking at home most nights, leftover night shouldn't be a problem!)

Immediately I know what I'm making for four nights (more or less) and then I fill in the other 3 nights with whatever recipes I can make based on what's in the pantry/freezer and what's on sale. My brain is scrambled enough most of the time, meal planning has to be on autopilot! Ha! I love the ease of practically not even thinking about 4 meals a week. I also like planning when I'm going to use an "easy" meal night (like breakfast for supper or a crockpot meal) based on our schedule not a set day of the week. The other nights I tend to cook a little bit more elaborate meals. The four meals listed above are cheap meals and allow me to spend a little more on the other three meals and still stay within budget!

Ways to save money when meal planning include planning meals around weekly sales and pairing them with what's already in your pantry or deep freezer. Plan your meals and then hit the grocery store! Know what cheap, filling foods your family will eat. Don't think every meal has to focus on a large cut of meat. We usually have a small amount of the main dish (usually the more expensive part of the meal) and round out the meal with veggies, fruit, and bread (cheaper, yet nutritious foods.). For example, we don't eat pounds and pounds of meat each night for dinner. If we are going to have a big roast one night, then the next night might be a meat-free night with whole wheat pasta and veggies. If you need more suggestions on saving money on groceries, read this post- http://nineonanickel.blogspot.com/2013/01/lets-talk-groceries.html

Meal planning is a sure fire way to save your family money! Basing it around your busy life is even better! It's easy to grab fast food if you don't have a plan. A little preparation and planning can turn you into a regular Betty Crocker! Eating out isn't cheap and to come home to sandwich fixin's or a meal in the crockpot on those busy nights is easy on mama AND the wallet!

So plan your meals! Save money, save time and be then envy of every mom on the block 

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