Meal Planning for an Easier, More Affordable Dinner

Are you meal planning yet? Having a food budget is tied to the family’s finances – a pre-determined amount to spend on groceries each week or month. Meal planning is the art of transforming those dollars into nutritious and enjoyable meals. Meal planning helps families stay in budget and be intentional about their mealtime.

Meal planning makes dinner easier and more affordable

Every family is unique. Their preferences, lifestyles, and weekly activities often determine what happens at mealtime. Some families are home and at the table each night for dinner while others may be at sporting events, dance classes, or other activities and need modified mealtimes. Meal planning works hand-in-hand with the calendar and the food budget to create meals that make sense regardless of the week’s activities.

Here are the steps for using meal planning as a tool:

Step 1. Collect recipes in one location

Whether you have an old-school file with paper recipes, a collection of beloved cookbooks, or electronic boards on Pinterest, having recipes on hand helps plan the week’s meals. Some families enjoy the same thing each week – Sunday spaghetti or Friday night pizza night – while others prefer variety. Keep a list handy of the go-to meals your family loves to make meal planning easier.

Step 2. Consult your budget and your calendar

Meal planning is very intentional. Making a plan includes consulting your budget for the week as well as the calendar. If your family is busy midweek, it won’t make sense to create a labor-intensive meal if you won’t be home. Busy days are managed by creating crock-pot or Instant Pot meals or prepping food ahead of time. If money is an issue one week, you may condense meals using the same ingredients or make more one day to have leftovers that reduce costs.  

Step 3. Create your menu and shopping list

Combining your meal plan and your shopping list for one trip to the store can help reduce impulse buying and keep you from having to go to the store multiple times per week. Include the family in meal planning by encouraging them to make suggestions for a meal or asking them to join you shopping. Save time and money by creating a spreadsheet with items you buy frequently at the store. If you know the layout of your favorite grocer, you can even coordinate the list for maximum efficiency.

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Step 4. Stick to the list and the plan

Saving time and money maximizes your food budget. When making a meal plan, stick to it. Don’t plan meals you won’t actually make and avoid any ideas of taking a night off and grabbing take out. This causes waste in your pantry and extra spending. Be mindful of your meal plan and prep foods that streamline your week the day you go shopping. Use kitchen tools that make prepping food easier so you’re more likely to follow through.

Meal planning is an excellent tool for saving time and money. Meal planning considers the family’s budget, activities, and preferences altogether. Building up a collection of favorite recipes that your family loves is fun. Being less hurried and more intentional about meal time means you will be less stressed, your family will eat better meals, and there is more time to be together.  

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