Tell me… is menu planning is terribly daunting to you? I know I’ve shared about menu planning before and have even posted some of our monthly menus in the past years, but after a while, menu planning became a frustrating process for me and I quit, sad to say. As a busy mama of 5, sitting down every week, every other week or even just once a month to plan a full month worth of meals became too much. Between my home responsibilities and the numerous interruptions, menu planning became such a time consuming chore that I couldn’t keep up with it.
Enter last year and we were really trying to stick to our food budget, but I found it quite difficult without a menu plan. At the beginning of this year, I sat down and started thinking of areas we could cut back in our lives. The grocery budget is my ‘go-to’ category for cutting back. We already use bulk food so we often have larger quantities of dried foods like lentils, rice, flour, sugar, etc. I cook a lot of things from scratch, though you will find things like cake mixes, tortillas and a few other things in my cupboards that are store bought. We don’t buy cereals (unless my husband goes grocery shopping for me), cookies, candy, premade meals, etc. But the amount of food we were buy was just too much last year and we often went over budget.
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When I sat down and started thinking about our finances, I started thinking about menu planning again. It was one area pertaining to our food that potentially could help cut down on our food bill. I knew from past experience that I needed to make meal planning easier, though, so I created a weekly planning sheet (see printable below) and started writing down some of our favorite dinners. Since I’m trying the Trim Healthy Mama plan, I decided I needed to take the extra time and plan all 3 daily meals and 3 potential snacks. It took extra long figuring all that out, but well worth it since I’m not good with on the fly decisions, especially when it comes to the THM plan.
Number One Tip for Simplifying Menu Plans.
So what did I decide to do that ultimately made menu planning simple? I created a one week plan and we now repeat that same menu each week. Some might get board with that, but after over a month of doing so, we’re still enjoying our meals and I only had to plan once. And the biggest benefit? We’ve already seen a decrease in our food budget. We are on tract for our current budget and I hope to whittle it down a bit more in the coming months.
5 Tips To Help Menu Plan:
- Make Time – No matter the menu size, it takes time to plan. Set aside an hour or two (maybe even more if you’re doing all 3 meals) for planning.
- Decide Meals – Jot down some ideas or ask your family what they like and pick 5 or 6 of the favorite meals. The other day or two will be leftovers.
- Keep Simple – Along the same lines of picking favorite meals, make sure they’re simple. All the dinners on my plan take about 30 minutes of prep with one (repeated) dinner being a slow cooker soup. The simpler they are, the easier to remember instead of reading a recipe each day.
- Simplify Ingredients – Choose meals that have similar ingredients. For example, one night is pizza and another night is tacos. You can use cheese, onion and olives in both meals which if you can find a better deal on those items in bulk, it’s a win win situation.
- Repeat Meals – Have a favorite meal that you wouldn’t mind having twice in one week? Make a double batch and save half for another night.
Benefits Of A Simple Menu Plan:
- Time: I’m no longer spending countless hours with innumerable interruptions on menu planning each month.
- Ingredients: We’re buying the same ingredients every week, so anything I can get in bulk, I do.
- Planning: Like with all menu planning, when it’s written down, you know what you’re having for dinner that day and you can plan accordingly. No more rushing to figure out dinner at 4:45 PM.
- Waste Less: Honestly, doing the same menu each week has helped us reduce food waste. I’m buying fewer ingredients and no longer have a little of this or a little of that leftover.
- Less Prep: All the recipes I’ve chosen require minimal prep. Unless I want to go more elaborate, I don’t have to start dinner at 3 o’clock and hope to have it done by 5 o’clock.
When you have the same meals week after week, you can buy bulk items that will stretch your budget. Example: Our local Cash & Carry store had chicken on sale for $1.39 per lb. We had to buy it in 40 lbs boxes, but that is an amazing price around here for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. We had a little extra money so we bought 2 boxes (yes, 80 lbs of chicken).
So there you have it. I’m sharing my menu planning calendar below. It’s made to accommodate my THM plan, thus the 3 meals and 3 snacks. I added the little squares in the left corner of each meal slot because the THM diet specifies meals by certain aspects (i.e. meals with healthy fats are considered an S or Satisfying meal while meals with healthy carbs are considered an E or Energy meal). I’ll be sharing more on my THM experience later and explaining these things a bit more.
Click the image above or HERE to access a free weekly menu plan printable.