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I love food. A lot. I find that food and entertaining are pretty important to me in our budget. Food can be one of the most expensive items in our budget every month. One of the ways I have found to help reduce the cost of our food expenses is to meal plan. This helps us save money on our food costs each month because I know exactly what we will be eating. Healthy meal planning is not impossible, it just takes a little practice so read on if you want some great tips that will help save you time and money.
Meal planning doesn’t seem very exciting. I know. Trust me, I know. However, the more organized you are with food, the more money you can save on food. It is a vicious cycle. Greg and I love to entertain and we love to be guests at parties. Greg loves to talk. Anyone who knows Greg, knows he loves to talk. My sons have inherited this from him. (Now do you see why I get up at 4AM. Momma needs a little peace and quiet in the morning.)
In order to bring food to others’ houses and be able to save money on our monthly grocery bill, I plan ahead. I am not much for couponing because I don’t have the time to sit and clip coupons. Sometimes if I see a coupon or 2 that might help me, I use it, but to sit down and actually go through a bunch of coupons, it just doesn’t happen. I have used a money saving app called Ibotta before. You basically make purchases and scan in your receipt and you get cash back. I can totally handle that, but to sit and clip coupons, it just isn’t gonna happen.
Let me be brutally honest also. I do not like meal planning. I think it can be very stressful and I can name 20 other things I would rather do besides meal plan, but after I am done and everything is planned out, I am a happy Momma.
I am going to let you in a couple little tricks I have found to make healthy meal planning easier.
Tips on how to kick butt at healthy meal planning:
Let’s get to the nitty gritty here. If you are just getting started at meal planning, this is what I recommend you do. Sit down for 15 minutes and write down all the food you love to eat. Write down the genre of food you are drawn to and come up with as many meals as you possibly can in that genre. If you need a little motivation, I came up with 21 cheap and easy dinner ideas to get you started. These are the meals we eat most often. Write down anything that comes to mind, even if it isn’t healthy. There are always quick things you can do to make meals a little healthier so don’t worry if you choose pizza or brownies. No biggie, I like those foods too.
After you write down all of the things you love to eat this is your master meal list. I suggest putting it in a binder. This is the list you will refer back to when you need some meal ideas. If you feel really organized when you are doing this, organize your meals into breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. Better yet, have a page for each of these and write down the things your family eats the most for these categories.
If you feel like you don’t have a lot to go off of, that’s ok. I have 2 tools that will help tremendously. I use both of these and I love them! I did a review of the Organize Yourself Skinny eBook and how it helped me save money. I love this book as I have saved a ton of time and cut my grocery bill by about $20 per week. Not only that, I have actually been shopping every 2 weeks instead of every week. Less time at the grocery store also makes me a very happy Momma. If you would like more information about this eBook, you can check it out here.
The other tool that I use and love is $5 Meal Plan. It is so easy to use and I love having different ideas for meals for my family. Dinner is the meal that stresses me out the most and with $5 Meal Plan, dinners are planned out for me. I seriously love it. There is a free trial for $5 Meal Plan so if you want to check it out, feel free by clicking on my link. You will get 2 weeks free so there is no risk to try it out.
Like I mentioned, dinner is the meal that stresses me out the most. Breakfast and lunch tend to be a little easier in our household. I usually make the same things for breakfast- eggs and toast, homemade pancakes, French toast, smoothies or cereal. I know, probably not very exciting, but I usually don’t have any complaints from the family. I have been obsessed with the Skinny Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie and this Coconut Cream Smoothie lately.
Lunch is also easy for us as I will plan for leftovers from dinner or I plan easy, healthy lunches like grilled cheese with green beans and fruit or use leftovers from dinner the night before and make something like BBQ Chicken Pizza.
Quick Tips for Healthy Meal Planning:
Let’s summarize what we just talked about. Healthy meal planning does not have to be difficult so here are the steps to take to make life easier for meal planning:
- Write down a list of everything you like to eat or the meals you make most often in your home. Keep this list in a binder. If you need specific recipes, make a section in the binder for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks. Place the recipes in each corresponding category and make it easy to find. You can do a tab or an index at the beginning on which page to find the corresponding recipe. This seem like it would take a bunch of time, but if you sit down and do it for 15-20 minutes, you will be surprised at how quickly you can put things together.
- If you notice you buy the same things over and over again, make it easy on yourself and create a grocery list on your computer of the things you buy most often.
- Which meal stresses you out the most? Breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks? Here is a list of 100 Cheap Clean Eating Snack Ideas that may help if snacks stress you out. Here is my Easy 4 Ingredient Guacamole Recipe too. If the other meals stress you out, is it planning them or preparing them? If it is planning them, I highly suggest the Organize Yourself Skinny eBook as Tammy has several ways to prep ahead of time to make your life easier.
- Do you feel stuck or feel like you have a lack of variety? If this is the case, I have had good luck with the $5 Meal Plan. It is only $5 for an entire month. I use it and I love he variety if offers in our lives.
- If you tend to like foods that aren’t so healthy, can you think of ways to clean them up? For example, if you love pizza, you can make pizza on a tortilla shell which cuts calories but you still get the pizza. You can also make a homemade healthier pizza by making your own crust. If you make pizza at home, you control what goes in it which is automatically healthier than eating out. If you love pasta, you can eat whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash and make your own sauce. There are tons of great substitutes to make your life easier and healthier!!!
- Do you feel like you want to make less trips to the store? You and me both! If this is the case, you can create easy freezer meals. Most of them require dumping stuff in a bag and putting them in the crock pot at a later time. You can go from freezer to crock pot to table. The Organize Yourself Skinny eBook will help in this case if you have never done any freezer cooking. It actually is very easy.
Healthy meal planning does not have to take up much of your time. It does take a little getting used to. I recommend sticking to meal planning for at least one month but 2 is better. If you are used to eating out often, then this will take some getting used to. If you have created a goal to eat better, don’t give up and give yourself room for trial and error. It will take you a bit to get the hang of meal planning if you aren’t used to it, but it is possible to get organized, eat better and make meal prepping easy.
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