The kitchen is one of those areas in our lives that can take a ton of time, energy, and money and at the end of the day, we can still feel like we are spinning our wheels. Do you ever feel like your kitchen is controlling you?
Between meal planning, grocery shopping, all the cooking, coordinating, and clean up, it’s really easy to spend all of our time in the kitchen and still not see much fruit from it all! So today I am going to take some time to dive into how we can get our kitchen under control, some tips for meal planning, and how we can save money from within our kitchens.
Listen to the podcast: I’ve recorded this blog post as an audio podcast. You can read it here, or if you prefer, listen to it as a podcast below! Enjoy!
I’ve heard from many women who don’t meal plan that they just don’t think it’s right for them for one reason or another. Maybe meal planning seems like adding one more thing to your to do list. Maybe it sounds like adding more work to your already full schedule.
I get that. Which is why I wanted to share my super simple method(s) for meal planning and how in the end, it saves me so much time, energy, and money.
Why I Meal Plan
Meal planning does take some time and effort up front (especially the first few times you do it), but the effort is well worth it. Before we dive into how I meal plan specifically, let’s chat a little bit about why I meal plan:
Meal Planning Saves Money
For a couple of reasons, meal planning ends up saving me so much money. Here’s how:
1) It Keeps Me Out of the Stores
We all know that the more time we spend in grocery stores and the more trips we take, the harder it is to stick to our grocery budget. I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant with our baby girl and it’s nearly impossible for me right now to leave Costco with only the items on my original list.
When I meal plan, it allows me to better plan out my week, month, and fit my meal plan into my budget. It eliminates that need to run to the store for only one thing and $80 later you walk out wondering how you spent so much!
2) I’m Better Able to Plan Around My Grocery Budget
Instead of having a vague idea of the money I’m spending and that I’m trying to stick within a specific amount of money. Meal planning allows me to literally plan my meals around my grocery budget. If I have $200 to spend this week, then I can plan our meals (down to the snacks) if I need to in order to fit that $200 budget.
This really helps eliminate the unwelcome feeling you get when you get to the end of the month and realize you are $300 over your grocery budget and have no idea how you got there.
Meal Planning Saves Time
Initially, meal planning takes a little bit of time to get into the habit of and actually do each time you head out to the grocery store. But in the long run, it saves so much time! It virtually eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” question that pops up around 5 o’clock every day.
Meal planning mentally frees me from having to think about my meals each day and helps to cut down on time searching for meals to make, running to the grocery store for one or two items I forgot, and helps me to be more organized.
Meal Planning Helps Us Eat Healthier
Meal planning is the #1 thing that helps me to feed my family healthier meals. Not only does it keep us from eating out, but it allows me to plan out well rounded meals and introduce a variety of fruits and veggies into my family’s diet.
When I don’t have a plan for dinner, it’s so much easier to ask my husband to pick up a pizza on his way home. That’s fine for the occasional treat, but it’s not okay when you end up eating out more often then eating at home. Yikes!
Meal planning gives me freedom, direction, and a vision for my kitchen so that I can focus on cooking the most nutritious (and yummy) meals for my family. I think my kitchen would be in chaos if I didn’t regularly meal plan.
How to Meal Plan the Easy Way
So are you convinced now that you need to start meal planning? Awesome – let’s jump in and I’ll share how I’ve been meal planning for the last several years.
1) Print out Meal Planning Sheets
Of course, you can just use a plain pen and paper. But I use the meal planning sheets from my super awesome home management binder and they rock.
2) Gather Your Cookbooks and Recipes
I love cookbooks – seriously, I’m a little bit addicted. So my first step in meal planning is to pull out a few of my favorite cookbooks and find some recipes. Note: When you start filling out your meal plan for the week, make sure you write down which cookbook the recipe came from and the page number. You think you will remember later…but you won’t!
Pinterest is of course my other favorite place to find recipes. So many of our family’s favorite recipes over the last several years have been discovered in Pinterest. You can follow me HERE on Pinterest to see how I use it for my homemaking.
3) Assemble Your Meals & Write Out Your Grocery List
Once you’ve got your cookbooks and you are finding meals you want to fill in for the week, write down your meal and then write down the ingredients for each recipe as you go. I’ve found this to be the quickest and easiest way to do things.
Compile your full meal plan with shopping list and if you are not sure if you have that item in stock, write a little “c” next to that item. Then when you are all finished with your grocery list, go check if you have those items in your fridge or pantry.
Then before you know it, you’ve created your entire meal plan! Yes, this does take more time than just walking out the door and going to the grocery store with a vague budget in mind.
But then once you get to the store you can move through the store much quicker with your grocery list in hand and will really help your budget too! Then throughout the week you will never have that question of: What’s for dinner?
My NEW Meal Planning System
This is how I did meal planning for the first five or so years of our marriage. I did a pen and paper meal plan every single week and it worked really well. If you are on a super tight budget then this system will serve you well.
However, for the last two years or so I’ve also been using an online system for my meal planning and I’ve got to say, I’ll never go back to pen and paper only. I use an online system called Build a Menu that totally rocks! (This is my affiliate link by the way. I make a small commission when you purchase through my link at no extra cost to you. But please know, I would never share about BAM if I didn’t 100% believe in it and use it myself).
Why I LOVE Build a Menu (even after trying out the top 5 other meal planning websites):
- HUGE selected of new meals added each week
- Takes about 10 minutes to build your entire menu for the week
- Print off your recipes, menu on the calendar, and complete grocery list in seconds
- Saves your menus for future use
- Lets you use their recipes OR add all of your own family favorites to the system
- Select meals based on price per meal per what stores(s) you shop at
- New feature: The ability to search by individual ingredients to find recipes that use that ingredient! AWESOME!
No other meal planning website I’ve ever seen lets you add in your own meals, search by ingredients for meals, introduces new meals each week, and build a menu around the menu prices!
Special sale as of January 2018!! Until January 15th, you can get the lowest price I’ve ever seen on BAM! Just use coupon code: BAM24.99 at checkout and get an entire year subscription to their premium plan for just $24.99! That’s just $2.08 a MONTH! And believe me, it saves me far more than that a month. Check it out here.
Yes, you can meal plan with pen and paper for free. Or use this system and for less than a $1.00 a week you can save so much time, hassle, and money. I’m planning on sharing later this week all the different ways I’ve used Build a Menu in the last two years, but it’s an understatement to say that I’ve been extremely happy with the meal planning system.
Check it out and snag Build a Menu for just $24.99 for an entire year!! Use coupon code: BAM24.99 at checkout.
Links & Resources Mentioned in the Podcast Episode:
- Hf #6: Freezer Cooking & My Homemaking
- My favorite laminator from Amazon
- My favorite cookbooks:
- Follow me on Pinterest (for all my meal planning & recipe boards)
- *Please note: This podcast episode was originally released on Nov. 17, 2015 but the blog post has been updated and redone since then.*