When it comes to keeping our grocery budget down to help keep our entire budget simple so that we can live debt free, knowing what we need vs what we want at the grocery store is essential! If I attempt to grocery shop and conjure up a meal plan while strolling (ok, flying and praying Rita's snack keeps her happy) through the grocery store I always come home with the most random assortment of groceries. Thankfully it has been a few months since that has happened!
We have tried two versions of meal planning. We did bi-weekly meal planning and chose meals that sounded good or appealing, but it was just mostly disorganized and confusing with grocery shopping. It also required double the amount of planning time for making grocery lists and menus, in contrast to the second version we tried. Before the bi-weekly meals, we picked six meals and planned a leftover night. Then we repeated those same six meals each week. Honestly, it was never boring! My cooking time seemed to shorten every week and we had fewer "grab a pizza on the way home" nights...which were starting to happen four times a month rather than just once!
With Jonah expected to arrive by August 1st (42 week mark) we decided to simplify our days by going back to a simple, weekly meal plan. Following this meal plan has streamlined our expenses, my cooking (which is really helpful at this point), and our life in general.
In order to keep it a bit more fresh than the last time around, we decided to have a lagniappe* night each week, which is the night we try a new recipe or celebrate a delicious old favorite.
Here's how we organize our meal planning. I call it our "Simple Seven Day Meal Plan" because it has simplified our life in a wonderful way and we generally repeat the same meals every seven days. Basic, and it runs so smooth!
Some months (June was a great example) there are so many weddings and birthdays and other reasons to celebrate that we have the ingredients for many meals remaining at the end of the month. That is always exciting and a blessing!
By printing this spreadsheet and filling in the boxes (using pencil of course! plans change!) we are able to take the guess-work out of supper. Supper is the most difficult meal for me, especially because I want it to be filling and delicious for my dear husband who has been working hard for his family. Generally, since we've been married, I've tended to wait until the last minute to throw supper together.
Setting a loose schedule for myself, which includes starting supper at 3pm and not running errands later than 2pm, as well as using a meal plan has helped me to be less stressed and better prepared at the end of the day. We generally eat by 5:45pm which leaves us plenty of family time!
So maybe you're wondering, how can you stand to eat the same meals every week?
It's not as hard as you think!
Pick your favorites and stick with those. We LOVE Mexican food and so having that once a week is no problem. Same with meatballs and spaghetti. In fact, by the recommendation of a friend and a borrowing of her cookbook we have found the most perfect delicious meatball recipe EVER!
I bet if you and your spouse choose meals together, make a master shopping list, and give this a try for just one month you will be quite surprised! Even trying for just two weeks is better than not trying at all. And when we really really think about it...the boys we sponsor in Nicaragua eat simple meals every day, so any variety we have is truly a blessing and a treat!
Of course, supper isn't the only meal I have to worry about!
For Breakfast we generally choose from:
Homemade kefir and cereal (milk instead of kefir for Tyler)
Waffles (Sunday morning special! and hopefully leftovers for the week)
Fruit is included in every breakfast
*PB is eaten with fruit, which is one of my favorite breakfasts!
PB and fruit
*Tyler's lunch is: leftovers, provided by work or he uses his "fun" money for a lunch of his choice.
Raw vegetable is included in every lunch
Breakfast and lunch are much more simple and a good bit smaller than our supper. Some weekends we eat our large meal for lunch and then snack for supper, but overall our largest meal is at night.
Meal planning has really revolutionized our home, our marriage (improves communication), my thought process and easily reduced our food budget (without us feeling like we are hungry - in fact we feel more nourished). We tend to eat more healthy, delicious, whole foods and that's fine by me!
If you are wanting to be a stay at home mom and struggle with meals and meal planning, this book would be mighty helpful!
Have you tried meal planning? What system works for you? Question?! Ask away in the comments.
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