That was my thought about 6 months ago when I saw an article on the joys of meal planning. Joy?? In my past experience with meal planning it was anything but joyful. I'll take you back to the beginning (don't worry it won't take long) :)
The first time I heard about meal planning I was a younger mom with just 3 kids, I was no longer working outside the home and we had to make our budget a
Now, fast forward about 4 years and here I was again adjusting our budget. I knew that there must be a way to shrink our grocery budget down, I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it. Then I saw another article about meal planning and my reaction was: Meal Planning?? Ugh! But as I read further it became clear to me that there are two forms of meal planning, the cheap way and the expensive way. The expensive way being that you do what I did all those years earlier, the only reason you're meal planning is to have a written out meal list so that you don't have to worry at 5:00 pm what you're having for dinner. In this type of meal plan you don't care how much you spend, just as long as you have a dinner plan for each night of the week. That's not my type of meal planning, I go the inexpensive route, I need to- I am feeding a family of 6 and I can't be frivolous in how I spend my grocery budget.
Would you like to know how I go about it now? First I found a great site with the exact Weekly Meal Planner sheet I was looking for. It didn't include a big list for breakfast or lunch, I didn't need a list like that. I only wanted a list for dinner, and that's what I use. I found it at: http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/meal-planner.html It's free and easy to print up, I have my master copy and when I need a new one I just make a copy of the master. It also has a little corner for a grocery list, which I love.
Okay, meal planning- the first thing I do (and this is the real money saver), I go through my cupboards, fridge, freezer, etc. and make a list of all the foods I already have on hand- meats and side dishes, etc. Then I write a list of meals that I can make with the food on hand. Main dish and 2 side dishes usually. For example: I have on hand ground beef, gravy packets, baking potatoes, canned veggies. So my dinner might be: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and canned peas.
As I write down my meals from what I have on hand I am crossing off the list the things I am using in my meals. Then I see at the end how many more days I need dinners for and I make another list of easy and inexpensive meals. For example, if I have spaghetti noodles but no sauce then I'll plan on buying a can of sauce and a bag of salad for an easy meal. For spaghetti nights I usually make my own cheesy bread to add as another side dish.
And that's about it, if I do meal planning this way it saves me a whole lot of money, and actually it's pretty easy and simple, and dare I say, fun?? Well, maybe not fun, but in a way it is enjoyable because I know I am saving money and I know that the stress is still out of it, no more 5:00 pm "I don't know what we having for dinner".
I hope this helps you in your future meal planning!