If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to spend less money then meal planning is a great place to start and this post covers exactly what you need to know.
If you don’t already meal plan then you’ll be amazed at easy it is and how quickly you’ll start seeing the results – literally as soon as you write your first meal plan and do your first shop you’ll be spending less! And even if you do already plan your family’s meal, I’m pretty sure you could up your game and save yourself even more money!
How I write our meal plan
Our meal plan runs from Monday through to Sunday and I do my weekly shop on a Monday after work. To prepare for my weekly shop, I spend a little bit of time on a Sunday night to write a quick list of the food we have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and then I sit down at the dining room table with a cup of tea and work out what we’ll be eating the following week. I look at the list of the food we have in and try to use up as much of that food as I make my plans.
I always give everyone a shout as I’m writing our meal plan to see if anyone has any special requests for meals which I started doing to make the kids feel more involved in the planning stage because I felt like that would make them more likely to want to stick to the plan – which totally isn’t the case at all but I still do it anyway.
I also get the kids involved with the cooking and I *try* to get them to do one night each where they’ll choose the meal and do most of the cooking while I sit at the kitchen table and supervise from afar. They need to let me know in advance what they want to cook so I can work it into our meal plan – usually Miss Frugal is fajitas and Master Frugal is scrambled egg on toast with bacon or homemade pizza but every now and again they do try something new.
Once I know what we’ll be eating, I write my shopping list of what I need to buy to add to what we have in to make the meals we have planned and I shop based on what’s on my list.
Also, while I’m telling you how I meal plan, I do also have a list of our most used recipes and what we need to have in for each of those to cut down on my thinking time. It’s nothing fancy but it definitely helps when I’m writing my shopping list. 😉
I do change my meal plan tactics in the school holidays as life gets a bit chaotic then but I like to still have a plan otherwise my budget runs away from me!
How I shop for my meal plan
It’s not as simple as walking around the shop with my list and just popping what I need in my trolley because something I need might not be in stock or I might find a cheeky little bargain in the reduced section or something on offer that I can’t resist.
As an example, I might come across some reduced sausages and decide to buy them and replace a meal I was planning to have with something sausagey. I then obviously wouldn’t need to buy any of the things that are on the list for the meal I’m replacing and would need whatever I need to make the sausage meal I have in mind instead.
How I organise my freezer to help with our meal planning
I actually have three freezers which I know is complete overkill but one is the freezer that’s part of my fridge freezer and one is an under-counter freezer we bought as one freezer wasn’t enough space the results of our batch cooking (more on that in a minute). The third one was my Dads and it’s a big full size six drawer one that we keep in the garage – he bought it and then realised he most definitely didn’t need all that freezer space so he sent it our way and we love the extra freezer storage.
We do make the most of our space although we’ve not been as organised recently so that’s on my New Years to-do list but usually we’ll have at least a few things in there that we’ve picked up the week before in the reduced section that I haven’t worked into that week’s meal plan.
We also have a drawer just for meal planning staples like mixed frozen veg which is quite cheap to buy and just as nutritious as fresh which saves me having to pop to the shops for fresh veg if we’ve run out of fresh veg. I have frozen rice (cheap and always fluffy), frozen chopped onion, frozen herbs and things like frozen chopped butternut squash and sweet potato that I can make quick soups with if I want to.
I also try to have lots of leftovers frozen in individual portions for lunches and when I’m organised I do as much batch cooking as I can to make to sure that there are plenty of homemade ‘ready’ meals in the house which makes even a planned lazy tea night into a night where we enjoy home cooked food.
As part of my batch cooking attempts, I make things like my homemade tomato sauce and freeze that in different sized portions so I can use it for everything from pasta sauces to pizza bases. Having things like this means I can make quick and easy home-cooked meals without much effort.
I also do a monthly Muscle Food order where I order a batch of chicken breasts as they’re so much better (and bigger) than the ones you can buy in the supermarket. They’re £27 for between 20 and 25 chicken breasts and when I get them, I portion them up and freeze them for us to eat throughout the month. I also use some of them in my chicken dump recipes to make meal prep even easier.
How I get my family on board with meal planning
It’s not easy to get everyone to support you when you and it can be really frustrating when you spend time planning and have someone say they don’t really want what you have planned and can they have something else but do try and stick to it and not give in otherwise it defeats the object. There are a few things I do to try and keep my lot involved though:
- I know this is an obvious one but I try to plan meals that I know we’ll all like and where there’s something that I know someone isn’t going to enjoy I try and offer an alternative to the same meal. Spaghetti bolognaise fr example is something that Master Frugal can’t stand but everyone else loves so I’ll do spaghetti bolognaise for us and something else with spaghetti for him so I’m not cooking a whole other meal.
- I ask everyone what they want in our meal plan so they have an input.
- I don’t always do this now but I always used to have our meal plan on display so everyone could see what we’re having and when. I used to print out a fancy copy of our meal plan and attach it to a clipboard or pop it on the front of the fridge. I have a meal planning template you can use for that if you want to – it’s the one that’s in my free financial planner:
Meal planning Inspiration
It can be really easy to get stuck in a rut with your meal planning – for months we had macaroni cheese, hunters chicken and homemade pizza at least once a week just because they were the meals I could cook in my sleep that I knew everyone would love.
I’ve tried hard this last year though to cook new things and I’ve found a love of cooking by experimenting more with our meals so next year I hope to share more of our family meals with you on here and over on my meal planning blog.
For now though, if you want some ideas for some new meals to include in your weekly meal plan then I have an A-Z of my frugal food recipes here. The photos are far from professional (or even good) but the recipes are good and I’m hoping to add to the recipes I already have and re-shoot some of the older recipes to improve them too.
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Pin my ultimate meal planning guide for later: