Last week on my Q&A post I mentioned that there were a few questions I wanted to go more in depth on. Today is the day I answer Heather's question!
Side note: Heather has just started the cutest crochet business! Her Instagram is @missmaycrochet. Check her out!
Heather asked: So I'm really bad at meal planning and grocery shopping on a budget. My question is, how do you do it?
First off: You need to know that I'm not an expert. There are probably several different ways to meal plan, but this is the method I use and it works pretty well. Take it for what it's worth. I won't be offended if you choose to use a different method or alter this one. Every family and lifestyle is different.
I like to start with my list of favorite meals. Get a piece of paper or pull up a blank note on your phone and brainstorm a HUGE list of your favorite meals. The longer the list the better! Don't forget to include some healthy meals and some that are really, really bad for you, too. They make it fun!
Then you make your meal plan template! There are tons of free printables on the internet or you can make your own to suit your needs. Mine's pretty ugly, but it works. I drew it on a piece of paper and stuck it in an 8x10" picture frame. I use a dry erase marker to write on the glass, and when the week is done I wipe it clean with my hand or a paper towel. Genius.
I do my meal plan a week at a time. At the top of my meal plan I like to write the week that it's for, then I fill out the dates. I write down what we are eating for breakfast, lunch (which is almost always leftovers, by the way), and dinner each day using my list of favorite meals. I also add a few new meals that we want to try, and if they turn out well I add them to my big list of favorite meals!
Under each day I jot down anything else that I might need to remember. Mine includes things like who's in charge of Family Home Evening, date night, play dates, etc. You don't have to add this part to your list, but I find it helpful since I look at it every day.
|I need to make a new meal plan template. This one has obviously been run through the wringer.|
After I write out my meals for the week, I go through and figure out what ingredients I have and what I need to buy. I then make my shopping list. I go grocery shopping about once a week, and I eat before I go and take my list with me so that my impulse buys are kept to a minimum (but sometimes you just gotta, ya know?).
Budgeting for Groceries
Something else I should mention is that before you go shopping, you need to figure out what your budget is for groceries! That's pretty important.
You can either do a weekly budget for groceries or a monthly budget. A monthly budget is a little more forgiving if there are things on sale that you want to stock up on.
I took a mini meal planning class from my cute friend a while ago and she said that you will want to plan $100 per person per month for groceries. That would include things that you eat, and things that you don't eat but still need to buy, like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
We spend about $70 for food each week (when I remember to take my list) and then have a monthly budget for non-food grocery items. The non-food grocery budget fluctuates each month depending on what we need, but I don't think it's ever been more than $50. Long story short, $100 is just about right, but there have definitely been times when I have spent much, much less.
It can be hard to stick to your budget if the things on your list cost more than you have set for your grocery budget. I try to guesstimate how much each item on my grocery list will cost and write it down. Then I add up how much everything I think will cost and make a goal to spend a few dollars less than that. If I do, I win! It's like a sad version of The Price is Right or something, but I think it's super fun.
Fun fact: Things generally go on sale every 2-3 months and some people like to stockpile a 3 month supply so that they always get the best deal on it, but I'm not that awesome. You might be, so I'm just throwing it out there in case you want to implement it.
Then I'll go throughout the week making my meals! There are definitely days when I look at my plan and say, "That sounds really gross right now. I don't want that." or "I definitely don't have time to make that today!" And that's okay. You have ingredients for 21 meals! Swap meals around throughout the week to fit your schedule and appetite.
Now you have the tools for success! In case you want a simplified version of the information above, here it is:
1. Make a huge list of your favorite meals
2. Get a meal plan template or write one up
3. Fill it out using your favorite meals and a few new ones (if you like the new meals, add them to your list of favorites)
4. Make your grocery budget, adjusting for the size of your household (about $100 per person per month for edible and inedible groceries).
5. Make your grocery list and price out items, making a goal to go a few dollars under.
6. Eat something, grab your list, and go grocery shopping!
7. Make your meals and stress less. If you need to switch meals around, you can do that! You have the ingredients for 21 meals now!
The Food Nanny
Another absolutely great resource that you should absolutely check out is Liz Edmunds' blog The Food Nanny. She came to speak in one of my classes at USU and really inspired me to start meal planning. She's amazing!
Now, you might feel a little overwhelmed with all this info I just smacked you in the face with. Just take it a step at a time. You'll get better at it every week! I'm still learning. I'm not "ready to go pro" yet. Ten points for the reference.
Perhaps, you're underwhelmed. Or just plain "whelmed" because this post didn't have anything new for you. In that case, I would sincerely love to hear how you do things! I am always wanting to find better and more efficient ways do things. Send me your ideas!
What are some of your favorite meals? Let me know in the comments below!
Hasta la pasta, ya'll!