Tips for Meal Planning
Meal planning does not have to be a chore. It’s quite simple once you get into a routine of doing it.
It’s kind of like doing your budget, it seems grueling at first but once you get in the habit of doing it, it’s easy. You may even feel lost without it.
I have been meal planning pretty consistently for about 3 years. There are times that life just gets busy and I may get behind but overall, I have a meal plan every week.
I have actually found that since I have been staying at home with my 3 kids, I have less time to meal plan and do my budget. It probably has more to do with running kids around constantly and trying to build my business. So in reality, I am more busy than when I went to work.
I know that sounds crazy even to me. I feel busier staying/working at home than I did working full-time. Now my full-time job was way more stressful and when I was busy, I was busy. I was a police officer for 10 years and a detective for 7 of those years. So you can imagine how stressful and busy it could be.
My point is, even when life is busy and it seems you can’t get anything done, meal planning is so easy, that you can still typically get it done.
Here are my tips for meal planning even when you are too busy and stressed out to think about it.
For help starting a meal plan check out Your Easy Guide to Creating A Family Meal Plan.
Have freezer meals
When life gets busy, make sure to have a pantry and freezer stocked with back up meals. You may not always have time every week to sit down and plan every meal.
So, it’s important to have some quick and easy meals on hand so that you aren’t tempted to grab fast food.
I keep a couple of frozen pizzas and chicken in my freezer at all times. These come in very handy and chicken can be used in almost every meal we make.
I usually have my freezer stocked with chicken broth, homemade spaghetti sauce, cooked pinto beans and chicken marinaded for street tacos as well. These are my go-to meals and having my freezer stocked makes it easier when tempted to eat out.
Meal plan a month at a time
If you are really busy then when you do have time to sit down and meal plan, you can try to do a month at a time.
When you have some regular meals and leftover days, then it’s really not that hard.
We typically have street tacos every week. I also plan for 2 leftover nights a week. We have a few regular meals in our rotation also.
I usually find a few new meals just so we don’t get sick of having the same thing over and over.
I typically meal plan a week or two at a time.
Plan for changes in the plan
Even when I meal plan, things come up and it may change. Sometimes, things change and then I have to freeze all the meat I bought before it goes bad. This is where I have the biggest issues.
What you can do if you only have frozen meat is to have some back up meals for the slow cooker or pressure cooker. You can cook frozen meat in either of these, it will just take a little longer to cook.
Have a slow cooker or pressure cooker
The new pressure cookers are very safe and have a slow cooker feature, so you don’t have to have two pieces of equipment.
When you are a busy mom, these are a must-have in your kitchen.
Invest in equipment that will make cooking easier and faster for you. You will save money in the long run by not eating out.
If you’re nervous about using a pressure cooker, you should check out Electric Pressure Cooker 101!
Use a Meal Planning Service
There are numerous meal planning services out there. I really love Platejoy because it is fully customizable. They even give you the shopping list or you can pair it with Instacart!
Check out my review of Platejoy here. Also, check out Amazing Meal Plan Services to Make Meal Planning Simpler.
Your time is worth money, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have time to meal plan and pay someone to do it for you. Think about it this way. Let’s say you make $20 an hour. You need to work overtime and that makes it $35 an hour.
Is it worth paying someone $5 a month to do the meal planning for you? YES! You easily recoup it with working. You are paying someone less than you make an hour to do something for you. It saves you time and money in the long run.
Same goes for housecleaning. If you are working and you don’t have time to keep up, it is worth paying someone to do it for you if you can afford it.
Even if you stay at home with your kids, $5 a month to save you an hour of searching for meals is worth it. That is basically $5 so you have time to do something else.
Organize your plan
So, I make my list with a free meal planning worksheet. Then I have to write down the name and where the recipe is so I can find it later. I learned that one the hard way!
So, if the recipe is on Pinterest, I will write “Pinterest” and what board it is on. I have also created a favorites board to put my favorite recipes on that I can easily find later. If it is a recipe that is hard to find, I will go to the website and make a new pin and put it on my favorites board for later also.
You can even make a board called “This Week’s Menu” and then you know where your recipes are without searching numerous boards.
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Meal planning saves you time, money, and your sanity! Have some back up meals ready for when life gets busy.
If you are in a busy season of life or working a ton and just don’t have time to sit down and do it, pay for a service. It saves you time and money and there is nothing wrong with paying for a service that benefits you.
There really is no excuse not to meal plan. It will save you money at the grocery store and I mean a lot of money. We went from $1200 a month to $600 a month including toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies and everything. When you meal plan, you aren’t buying a bunch of random stuff without a purpose. You buy what you need and that’s it.
There are even free meal planning sheets you can print and put on your fridge so that you remember what you bought.
Find ways to make it easier for you and it will be easier to keep up with and will become a habit you can’t live without.
Ashley is the owner of Budgets Made Easy. She was able to pay off $45,000 in 17 months. Now she helps people budget their money so they can pay off their debt. She has written two ebooks: 200 Easy Ways to Save Money Everyday and The Ultimate Budget Workbook. You can follow her on Facebook or Pinterest or join her free budgeting group for extra support.