I have always been horrible at meal planning. I try it for a week, get busy with life, and then stop doing it. The longest I lasted on a meal plan was two weeks. I am not a very good cook, I hate being in the kitchen, and eating out makes things so much more convenient.
As most of you know, I use the cash envelope method for my budget. I also track all of my expenses. It didn't take long to realize that it's impossible for me to stick to my food budget if I'm regularly eating out.
I decided to give this whole meal planning thing another try, but this time, I am going to do it my way. I sat down and created the ultimate meal planning solution to my food budget problems.
Every Sunday, I spend a half hour creating a successful meal plan and prepping lunches for the upcoming week.
Today, I want to show you how I set up a successful meal plan and the steps you need to take to make it a reality in your own life!
I created the TBM Meal Planner Workbook to help me organize my recipes, create a weekly and monthly meal plan, track my pantry and freezer staples, and to help me build a planned grocery list.
Not only am I able to create a successful meal plan, but I am also able to reduce food waste by using my inventory checklists to see which foods I have that are about to expire. I create recipes that use these ingredient before their expiration date. No more throwing away old food!
HOW I CREATE AND USE A MEAL PLAN
The first page of my binder is a monthly meal plan. I use this as a reference tool so I can repeat recipes by month, week, or day. The calendar is blank at the beginning of the month, but as I plan my weekly meal plans, I fill it out as I go along.
At the beginning of every month, I take inventory of everything in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I can't tell you how much this has helped me. Not only can I see which foods are about to expire so I can use them, but it lets me know what I have on hand so I can create recipes around those items.
I find most of my recipes online and will start posting weekly meal planning updates on Sunday for the recipes that I am using for the upcoming week. There are a ton of free recipes that you can find on Pinterest, and that's usually my go-to source.
I have owned an Instant Pot since Christmas, and have only used it twice. I plan on taking advantage of quicker and easier meals by finding and cooking more Instant Pot recipes.
After going through my inventory & looking on the internet for possible meal plan recipes, I start brainstorming ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
This is a great way to quickly write down recipes that you're thinking about, or ideas that you would like to use for the upcoming week. Nothing is set in stone. Brainstorming just allows you to get your weekly meal plan thoughts down on paper.
Once I am done brainstorming possible ideas, I create my final weekly meal plan. For my lunches, I meal prep on Sunday, so there is only one recipe that I use for lunches for the entire week. I also account for leftovers.
I will admit, I am awful when it comes to leftovers. However, having a planned day for leftover food makes sure nothing is getting wasted.
When my weekly meal plan is created, I compare the ingredients from my recipes against my inventory checklist to find out what I still need to buy at the store. This is how a planned grocery list is created.
To save money, I try to find recipes that use ingredients that I have written down on my inventory checklists. Everything else gets added to my Grocery Plan worksheet.
After I have my Grocery Plan for the ingredients I still need to buy for my weekly meal plan, I combine like ingredients and add them to my final grocery list. I like to have all of my ingredients categorized to save time at the grocery store.
For any recipes that I don't print off from the internet, I use a recipe printout to write the recipe down to keep in my binder.
After you create your final grocery list, your meal plan is complete. You will have:
- Created an inventory list for your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
- Created a monthly menu plan.
- Researched and found recipes.
- Brainstormed a weekly meal plan.
- Created a final weekly meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Developed a shopping plan.
- Created a final shopping list.
If eating out is killing your food budget, you need to be meal planning. Get my full meal planning workbook and all of the printables here!