Keys to Meal Planning

We’re back with the Mommies from Meal Planning Mommies on some keys to planning.

1. Planning is great, but you must remain flexible.
Your plans and your tastes may change. If so, save what you have and use it next week. Each week, I try to come up with a couple of meals that will take some time to cook, and make the other meals relatively easy. If I spend an hour cooking dinner one night, you can bet the next time I am only cooking for 15 minutes or so. 🙂

2. Plan according to what you already have, what is on sale, and according to your budget.
You might be surprised what savings you find naturally occurring, simply by following this rule. My husband is continually proud of my receipts compared to the food we’re able to enjoy as a family each week. Especially in an unstable economy, this is a “must learn” for any meal planner.

3. Variety is nice, but it’s okay to plan the same meal twice (or more!) a month. (“Staple Meals”)
My husband loves chicken fried rice. I usually have the ingredients needed in our house. On weeks when I buy chicken on sale you can bet this one will be served that week. We also generally eat grilled cheese for one lunch, and spaghetti for one dinner; because we always have the ingredients on hand. Finding a meal that your family loves + easy to prepare + Cheap to make = Meal Planning Staple Meal

4. Grocery shopping must come AFTER meal planning
You cannot effectively MEAL PLAN at the grocery store. We find it helpful to print off our downloadable grocery list each week (AVAILABLE HERE) and place it in a visible spot in the kitchen. Our grocery list serves three main purposes:
* To Keep a simple running list in the kitchen. You simply circle the much needed item on the list the moment it crosses your mind. This means that later, when peanut butter is far from your thoughts and you have already scraped the last bit out, it has already been circled on your list!
* To help you effectively meal plan by circling the items you need for your menu. If you meal plan at the store you will buy things you do not need (hmm…salmon looks good this week) and spend money you don’t need to spend (why was my total $200?). Then, you will get home and realize, “DOH! I forgot SUGAR!” and have to run back to the store later. 🙂 (or is that is just me?)
* To serve as a great reminder to make sure that your food choices are balanced. If you notice that there are a lot of processed foods circled on the list while there are a lack of circles in fruit, vegetable, and grains departments it can serve as an encourager to plan more meals/snacks that use these items. Using a running grocery list can actually help you see your family’s eating habits and make changes for the better if needed.

5. Your meal plan should be VISIBLE so you stick to it.
Download a Free meal planner sheet at meal planning mommies HERE, get a small white erase board for your refrigerator, or create your own meal planner. If you don’t write it down you will probably forget what you had planned to make. Then you will get to the middle of the week and think you need to eat fastfood. (oh! that’s just me too?) 😉 It will also serve as a reminder to your family so you can avoid the “What’s for Dinner?!” question.

6. You do not have to be a good cook to be a meal planner.
TRUST ME! There are lots of great resources available to give you ideas of how to create easy and cheap meals. USE THEM, your family will never know! At meal planning mommies we have a variety of ideas for you to choose from. From frugal to kid friendly and even ethnic recipes!

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