Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creating a Meal Plan

One of the keys to successful budgeting is meal planning. Before meal planning I would spend what would seem like forever staring inside the pantry, fridge, and freezer playing the "well what do you want for dinner tonight?" game. When I think of a ll the times we would say 'there's nothing to eat' and ending up getting take out makes me annoyed with myself! There is always something that can be thrown together with the contents of your food supply, but what I find the most convenient to do is create a meal plan for the whole month. With having a meal plan Josh and I are both on the same page about what will be for dinner that night and what needs to be taken out to thaw or prepped ahead of time. I generally begin planning my meal plan for the next month half way through the previous month. So because it is half way through November, I am going to show you how I am planning for my upcoming meals in December.

When creating a meal plan I generally start with printing off a simple calender of the upcoming month and crossing off any events where I wouldn't be able to cook dinner that night. For example, birthday dinners, Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, or special nights like anniversaries. After doing that if there aren't too many nights crossed off that require us to pay for our own dinner, I will pick one or two nights a month for a take out night of pizza or Chinese food. After all that is finished, I begin to plan my meals.

For meat during one week I try to have one night with ground beef, one night with pork, and one night with chicken, and one vegetarian meal at least. I find if I balance our meals this way we aren't finding that there is three chicken meals in a row or anything like that.

After planning my meals for the month I make a huge list of everything I need for each meal. Writing down things like ground beef x 5 dinners, 3 x canned mushrooms and things like that. This make it much easier to plan for my big shopping trip at the beginning of the month.

At the start of each month I shop for everything I possibly can that will not go bad before the end of the month. I purchase all my pantry items, produce that will last all month (potatoes, apples, carrots, cooking onions), produce that can be cleaned, chopped, and frozen (peppers, celery, green onions, etc.), and all my meats. It is a long, stressful day but it pays of in the end. When I come home with everything I need for 30 days worth of meals, (minus fresh produce like lettuce, bananas, berries, etc) I feel as though it will be such a time saver later.

When all my planning is completed for December 2012, I will post detailed lists of everything I plan of purchasing and how I do it exactly.

example of how I plan for my meals for the month

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