June 2013

Save Time and Money with a Meal Plan

To save time and money, I use a weekly meal plan. I used to have a blank meal plan every week. I would come up with ideas every Saturday night and fill it it. Some weeks though I wasn’t feeling very creative, or I didn’t have enough time to come up with ideas and it was rather difficult. So I created a two week revolving meal plan pattern. Some of the meals are static such as Monday breakfast is usually pancakes (Though I change it up from week to week by making different pancakes including plain, banana, or blueberry). Some of the meals are more flexible like Monday night pasta (this can be anything from spaghetti (my fallback), to tuna noodle casserole)).

On Saturday night, I fill out my weekly meal plan for the following week, being as specific as I can. Monday breakfast (pancakes) becomes: Rhubarb Spice Pancakes, strawberries, and juice. Monday night pasta becomes: Spaghetti with meat, garlic toast, and lettuce salad. Here is a PDF of my weekly meal plan that I printed and laminated with contact paper. I hang it on my fridge for convenience but keep my two week revolving meal plan pattern stashed away with my cookbooks since I don’t need it every day. Here is a sample of what my weekly meal plan would look like filled in. The only difference is that I use dry erase markers to fill it in on my fridge (they wipe off of contact paper easily), and I abbreviate a lot and assume things for myself. I thought it might make more sense if I spelled it out in a little more detail than I use for myself.

The bottom section of my meal plan is marked “Notes”. I use the space for reminders for myself. Such as new recipes I want to try next week. Reminder to fry 2 pounds of hamburger to save me time for a meal later in the week or often as a to-do list since I look at the meal plan at least 3 times a day.

As far as the “save money” part, there are lots of studies about people who use meal plans and shop with lists spend less money. In addition to that, there are two big ways that I save money with a meal plan.

  1. I buy meat when it is on sale at the grocery store and put it in the freezer. Then I base my meal plan the following week off of what I have in the freezer.
  2. I don’t waste food. I incorporate left-overs into other meals (such as left-over chili may become topping for baked potatoes later in the week) and I schedule a left-over meal into the meal plan at least once a week. (A left-over meal is where I pull out all the left-overs from the fridge, line them up on the counter, and let each kid have a turn choosing which left-over they want. I usually have a simple back up idea, such as PB&J if we run out of left-overs.)

How plan you meals?