As a one income family, and a frugal one at that, we meal plan. For us it helps in numerous ways: to save money, only grocery shop once a week and the best of all, we know what’s for dinner so we don’t spend 30 minutes each night debating back and forth on what we’re hungry for (then inevitably eating out because we’re too ravenous to attempt stepping foot into a grocery store).
How I Make the Plan
I usually start by looking in our cupboards, freezer and fridge each week to see what we already have on hand, what’s going bad, what looks good, etc. From there I get a general idea of what we might need to use in a meal (such as the 15 cans of black beans we still have in the pantry from Hurricane Sandy). I think of food I’ve been craving lately, recipes I’ve wanted to try and ask Bry what he may be craving. Then I write out each day and create a meal for each one. I try to make sure each meal includes at least 2-3 vegetables.
Last week we had brown rice, shrimp, tilapia and chicken already on hand.
Example Plan (actual plan from last week!)
I start each week’s plan on the day I go grocery shopping. Last week I shopped on Friday so my meal plan will take me through the following Friday when I will grocery shop for the following week.
Friday: Date night (we have one once a week)
Saturday: Beef & broccoli over brown rice
Sunday: Turkey breasts, stuffing, creamed spinach & green beans
Monday: Shrimp creole over brown rice
Tuesday: Chicken with Roasted Tomato, Oregano & Avocado Salsa with brown rice and mixed squash
Wednesday: Tilapia with avocado, brown rice mixed with black beans and mixed vegetables
Thursday: Shredded BBQ chicken, sweet potato fries and mixed vegetables
Note: I made a huge batch of brown rice (that we had in our cupboard) on Monday that we used throughout the rest of the week.
For lunches Bryan takes a sandwich, 1-2 pieces of fruit and a few granola bars to work. I’ll usually eat whatever leftovers we have from the night before.
For breakfasts Bryan eats eggs and toast and I eat dolled up old fashioned oatmeal.
Snacks include granola bars, fruit, vegetables (such as baby carrots or celery), hard boiled eggs, nuts and triscuits.
We buy coffee in the bulk section for Bry and occasionally a box of tea but other than that we only drink milk and water (full fat for Bry, almond milk for me).
I then create a grocery list. I start with produce since we begin every trip in the produce section and fill the majority of our cart with fresh fruits and vegetables. Then I finish the list in the order of where the items are in our store.
- Green bell pepper
- Turkey breast
Obviously our list is much longer than that, but you get the general idea. Most of our list can be found on the perimeter of the store.
We don’t coupon because we found that we often bought things we wouldn’t normally buy and ended up spending more money because we were adding things instead of substituting things in our cart. Plus the coupons for our grocery store are rarely for things we’d ever eat (cereal, cookies, etc.). Instead we buy a mixture of fresh and frozen vegetables (frozen are amazing because they don’t rot quickly AND they’re a quarter of the price of fresh). When I meal plan I’ll use one ingredient in multiple recipes for the week (such as brown rice or avocado). I’ll always choose an item on sale vs. it’s full price counterpart (ex. tomatoes were buy one get one free this week). We buy store brand vs. name brand granola bars, diced tomatoes, etc. We’ll buy bags of apples, oranges and onions instead of paying per pound. We’re flexible with our meal plan. If we were planning on having chicken but turkey is on sale, we’ll eat turkey instead. The only thing that we do splurge on is wild caught Alaskan salmon vs. farm raised. The reason behind that is the increase of omega-3 found in the wild salmon vastly outweigh that in the wild caught, wild salmon has less overall fat content while having more protein and it has less mercury. That’s huge for us and worth the extra money especially since I’m still BFing.
Obviously I’m not an expert at meal planning and there are definitely other ways to save more money but this is what works for us and the behind-the-scenes of how we make our meal plans. This is what works for our family and we hope it helps your family too 🙂