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The #1 question I’m asked is “how do I meal plan?” First of all, food costs a lot and we all have to eat. It may be one of your largest bills after rent and mortgage! And whether or not you coupon, meal planning will save you money as you’ll focus your grocery shopping around planned meals. You’ll waste less food, thereby saving money. Making a meal plan frees up your mind so you can focus on preparing meals. It makes dinner time and the evening ritual less stressful. During the weeks where I wrote out a meal plan, I felt less tired and stressed out since my plan was laid out. I didn’t have to throw together a meal at the last minute while I was frazzled. I felt calmer, relaxed, and put together. It made a real difference! All it takes is 10-15 minutes a week of planning to help your week run go smoother.

1. List all the meals you can cook and your family will eat.

The first step is to list everything that you can make that your family will eat, with heavy emphasis on “what your family will eat.” Let’s face it. Who wants to go to the trouble of slaving away in the kitchen to make a meal that no one wants to eat? Many of us have picky eaters or family members with special diet considerations. That makes it a bit more challenging to make meals. But you know how to handle it. If it means making an extra meal for that one person, then be it. You’re surviving here! And I won’t judge. Make a mental note to research later and experiment with meals that everyone will eat.

2. Decide what you’ll be planning for – dinner only, lunch and dinner, or all meals.

Will you be planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? If you’re starting out, I highly recommend starting with just dinner and use the leftovers for lunch the next day.

3. Print out a menu planner.

You can always “Google” for a “free printable meal planner” and come out with a ton of options. May I suggest using Swagbucks when you search though so you can earn gift cards and prizes while searching?!

4. Check your calendar next week for events, dinner plans, or kid’s sports activities.

Are there any days where you won’t have to cook, like dinner plans? Make a note of it on your menu planner. If you have dinner plans at a restaurant, then that’s a night you don’t have to cook. Or if your kids have a sports game in the evening, then you’ll have to come up with a quick meal to make or plan to eat out.

5. Make a note of what’s in your pantry.

Use up what you in your pantry first. What can you use to create a meal? Do you have pasta and sauce to make pasta? Do you have meat in the fridge to go with it or do you have to buy it?

6. Write out a meal plan.

Taking into consideration what’s in your pantry and referring to your list of meals, write down the planned meals into your menu planner. Then write out a grocery list for the items you need to buy.

7. Go grocery shopping.

Shop with your grocery list and stay on target. Going outside your list will ultimately cost you more money and our goal is to save money!

8. Post the meal plan on the fridge or where you can see it every day.

This last step will help you stay on target with your meal plan. When you see it every day, you’ll be reminded that you planned to cook. There, you did it! It wasn’t so bad was it? It sounds like a lot more work than it really is.

What are your tips on meal planning?

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