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The Ultimate Secret to Meal Planning!

Ready? The ultimate secret to weekly meal planning is…..

….drumroll please….

…MONTHLY MEAL PLANNING!

That’s right, it’s not weekly planning at all!

There are hundreds of ways to meal plan floating around Pinterest. I used to plan meals out every Sunday for that next week. When I finished, we would go shopping at the local grocer and that was that.

The flaw in my plan, however, was that if I did not get that weekly plan complete, then we wouldn’t go grocery shopping and we wouldn’t have the food needed for that night. This led to us eating out, which as we all know, costs more than just going to the store and getting what you need. (I mean, I’m already leaving the house, why not just pick up the dang groceries?!)

Receiving a Costco membership as a gift led to the idea that I should plan meals for more than just one week. This led to monthly meal planning.

          Side comment: We never wanted a warehouse club membership because it was just my husband and I and we didn’t see a need to stock up on anything. Then at the end of my pregnancy, we were gifted a Costco membership, and decided to give it a shot and I don’t know why we ever thought this was a bad idea!

 

How it works:

SET UP:

1.Make a list of your “staple items”:        

I put Salmon, rice, and a vegetable every Monday to ensure the meat is fresh when we prepare it and to make sure we are getting our Omega-3’s as naturally as possible. (Fish oil supplements make me want to gag)

Our monthly meal plan for April

2. Make a list of your “quick and easy items” or fillers

My easiest item is Hamburger Helper. I know it’s not the healthiest, but I always have a box on hand and ground beef in the freezer. Sometimes I will spruce it up with vegetables (but usually just lots of cheese), or not make it at all if we have an abundance of left overs in the fridge.

3.  Make a list of new and fun recipes which I typically find perusing Pinterest. I don’t know how some people still live without Pinterest!

 Now, plug these items in list format by date

 I also like to add an Eat Out/ Left Over day on Saturdays. This is typically when we are either traveling or don’t feel like cooking, so why set yourself up for failure when you already know what is going to happen? 😉

MONTHLY MAINTENANCE

When writing the next month’s menu, I will rip out the previous month and use favorites and fillers for a majority of the new month, then add in new recipes for each week.

1.       Red dot/ Green dot

  I like to have my husband go over the previous month’s list with a red and green marker as an unbiased way for him to tell me what he loved and hated.

When I cook and experiment with new recipes, Adam will always tell me, “Thanks babe, this is delicious!”. He will say that even if he totally hates it. He is so sweet.

I have him put dots next to the meals he loved and meals he hated as a gauge for the next month of menu options. Green dots are added more frequently on the next month, red dots are typically eliminated, and anything without a dot is free game for a filler.

2.       Explore Pinterest!

I will typically find one or two new recipes for each week on Pinterest just to mix things up. It can be very bland eating the same things over and over again.

3.       Go Shopping

This is the key where everything comes together. First, by planning out your meals by month, you can look for the cheapest options for your groceries at multiple stores. We used to just buy what they had at the store we liked and if it was pricier, so be it.

Now, we will go to a couple grocery stores and Costco (as we get around to it) to compare prices. So, when I need to buy ground beef or chicken in bulk, I can see if it is priced better locally or at Costco or even Wal-Mart. (yep, Costco isn’t always the cheapest price!)

Second, meal plans by month help me to know, ahead of time, what exactly I will need to stock up on, which eliminates unnecessary food items taking up space in my little fridge-top freezer. (I know, I know, we are considering a small deep freezer for extra space)

These are just some tips on how I plan out my family’s meals for the weeks ahead. I am sure everything will change once my daughter starts with solid food.

 

I am interested in your thoughts! How do you write your meal plans and where do you find the best deals on groceries?