As summer starts coming to a close, our thoughts turn to “back to school.” School shopping, budgeting, meal planning, scheduling, etc. As resistant as we might be, we still have to be very prepared to get back into a routine. One of the most important factors in getting back into a routine is our family’s need to have a healthy meal plan. Having a meal schedule is one of the best ways to keep our family doing exactly that.
We also have a very strict weekly budget that we are able to stick to (without coupons I might add) as long as we plan our weekly meals and are diligent with our menu. I’d like to share with you how to save time and money on meal planning. How I stick to our weekly budget, how I plan our meals, and some tricks I use to keep grocery shopping and meal planning simple and stress-free.
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Your Weekly Grocery Budget
I’d like to start with our weekly budget. We have 6 people in our family and $150 to spend on groceries and $50 on household items. We consider household items as things that cannot be consumed. For example, vitamins are considered groceries, not household.
We have eliminated diapers from the equation, (pun totally intended) so we don’t factor those expensive waste collectors into the budget anymore. I do all this without coupons! One of these days, I’ll tell you why I gave up couponing. With that in mind, when I go to plan my week, I make sure my meal planning recipes are not going to break the bank or my sanity.
Setting Up Your Weekly Meal Plan
I only plan our family meals one week at a time. The reason for this is because I really don’t like having to make any additional trips to the store unless I absolutely have to. Ain’t no one got time for that!
- Look at your family’s schedule. What are some nights this week that are going to need something quick and easy? What nights are a bit more laid back that you can prepare a more extravagant meal? Are you going to a barbeque? Are you going to be out and about and need take-out? The better planned you are, the less food you waste, therefore, the more money you save.
- Use a meal planning template. I suggest having a meal planning template that rotates every 2 weeks. It makes it easy to just pick a recipe and know exactly where it would fit into the week. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go into the meal plan for the week. Ours looks like this:
- Week 1) Monday- Sandwich, Tuesday- Chicken, Wednesday-Vegetarian, Thursday- Pasta, Friday- Meat, Saturday- Slow Cooker, Sunday- Leftovers.
- Week 2) Monday- Vegetarian, Tuesday- Pasta, Wednesday- Meat, Thursday-Slow Cooker, Friday- Out/Pizza, Saturday- Soup/Chicken, Sunday- Leftovers/Breakfast for dinner.
Choosing Recipes For Your Weekly Meal Plan
Over the years, I have been able to collect some recipes for our family that, 1. I know they’ll eat, 2. is healthy, and 3. gives them a variety. These include my own recipes, a few select cookbooks, and a few blogs & websites that I trust will meet all of those criteria. Do you have a collection yet? If you don’t, I have the perfect solution for you so keep reading!
What if You Don’t Have Your Own Collection?
If you find yourself thinking, “I have no way to get started on a quick and easy meal planning routine because I don’t have a collection of recipes,” then allow me to offer up a solution. The Dinner Daily has a collection of recipes for people who need help with their meal plans. These recipes are completely customized to your family. Simply check the boxes for what your family needs and the recipes are created just for you.
Not only do they have a collection of recipes, but they match them up with your local grocery store and use recipes that use food items that are on sale and in season. They also provide you with a list of coupons you can print! Plus, these recipes can all be prepped and on the table in 45 minutes or less. They’re all quick and easy meals and they’re delicious!
The Strategy of Choosing Recipes
There are a few ways you can go about finding recipes that you need. You can simply select them from your collection of recipes. The problem that I run into when I do it this way, is it ends up taking forever. I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but seriously, when you’re a busy mom with lots of hats to wear, you need meal planning to be quick and easy. You don’t have a lot of time. Also, you could end up choosing recipes without thinking about your schedule that week and run into choosing a pot roast on a night when sandwiches would have been a better option because someone has dance lessons, someone else has soccer, someone else has piano lessons, you get what I mean? Here are my suggestions for choosing your recipes for your weekly meal plan.
Start Collecting Recipes
You are more than welcome to use my suggestions to find your family’s favorite recipes. If you find a recipe on a website, make sure you print it out. If you find it in a cookbook, make note of the page number in the cookbook so you know right where the recipe is when it comes time to cook your meal. And, if you’re looking for the best way to organize all those printed recipes, I have the cutest recipe binder printables that you need to check out! Click on the button below to check out the prints.
Meal Planning Box
If you can collect all your recipes and decide which ones work the best for your family, you can put them together in a way that will make it fun and easy for your family to participate in meal planning. When it comes time for the family council on Sunday evenings, one of our agenda items is to go through our weekly meal plan. Most of the time I get eye rolls and a lot of “ummmms” and “I don’t knows”. So, to make things easier and a lot more fun, I put together this meal planning box.
Now, all we have to do is take turns as a family and pick a recipe out of one of the boxes and fit them into the template. Easy peasy! No eye rolls, no “ummms” and “I don’t know”.
Let The Dinner Daily Choose For You
Once you’ve gone through your weekly schedule and you know how crazy it’s going to be, you can easily log in to your dashboard at The Dinner Daily and get your weekly dinner meal plan. They have it all ready for you by Friday night. Look over your meal plan, switch it up, remove some recipes, add some recipes, do whatever you need to to make it work for you that week. It takes me about 5 minutes to look the plan over, look over the grocery list they provide and print out the plan. Oh, and by the way, the entire plan prints out in two pages or so and includes the recipes. No going back to the website to find the recipes.
Put Your Meal Plan in a Visible Area
It's a really good idea to put your menu in an area where you can easily see it. The only reason I highly suggest this is so that you can plan ahead. There have been plenty of times that 4:30 comes around and I think, "Oh, I should probably start making dinner," and when I look at the menu, it's something that requires marinating or refrigeration. Then, I might have to come up with plan B since I hadn't thought ahead. I use this awesome magnet whiteboard menu by U Brands. It's perfectly sized for my kitchen. I didn't want something too big and bulky.
I love that this has a corkboard at the bottom so that I can attach my printed recipes to the bottom. While I'm making dinner, my recipe is right there where I can see it.
The Best Way to Plan Your Grocery Shopping and Stick to Your Budget
- Now that you have all the recipes need for the week, go through each recipe and find out what you need to make each one.
- Use The Dinner Daily's grocery list according to your recipes created specifically for your family.
- Make sure you inventory your kitchen and pantry. Because it always happens that you think you have spaghetti noodles in the pantry when you go to make spaghetti and there are no spaghetti noodles.
- It's important to remember what will be needed for snacks throughout the week as well. Because we all know that once breakfast is over, there's a child somewhere in the house that will tell you they're starving 10 minutes later.
- Don't go overboard on the fun food. Allow yourself one fun food item per week. This will provide you with the craving you might be seeking, but will also save your budget if you end up splurging on these foods.
How the Amazon Echo Helps Me With Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping
After I have made my menu and I know exactly what I need at the store, I start listing each item off to my Amazon Echo device. All I have to say is "Alexa, add butter." The Echo device adds butter to my grocery list on the Alexa App and I just keep going. It saves me paper and I can tell Alexa what I need while I'm taking inventory throughout my kitchen or anywhere in my house.
I've also trained my family to tell Alexa when we need something at the store. If they opened the last box of pretzels, they know to tell Alexa that we need pretzels. That way, when I open up the Alexa app to look at the grocery list, I see what we need.
The Best Way to Shop for Groceries for Your Weekly Meal Plan
Now that you have your grocery list, you probably have 3 choices.
- Take your printed/digital/handwritten list to the store.
- Order your groceries through Walmart.com or the Walmart.com app and pick them up when they're ready.
- Send your grocery list through The Dinner Daily to your local grocery store that does grocery pick up.
I'd like to break down all three of these experiences so that you can decide what is best for you and your family.
Take Your List to the Store
Just remember, stick to your list! This is one thing that really makes it hard to stick to your list when you have to physically go to the store. You end up impulse buying when you hadn't planned to. I personally don't like to write or print my lists on paper because they always blow away when I'm racing down the aisles. I'm a rebel. I prefer to have them digitally on my phone if I absolutely have to grocery shop. Can you tell I really love shopping at the store?
To make things easier for myself, I got this Emmzoe Smartphone Mount for my phone so that I can have my phone accessible to me at all times. It makes my dreaded trip to the grocery store that much easier. No more fumbling for my phone and it's easily accessible at all times. Plus, this handy gadget will attach to our stroller, bike, and treadmill. It's also small enough that it will fit in my purse, so I can keep it with me.
Make Your Life Easier By Using Walmart Grocery Pickup
This saves you money because there's no impulse buying and you can easily compare cheaper items through the app or website. I could go on about how many times the Walmart Grocery Pickup has saved my sanity and my schedule. Plus, it's absolutely FREE for pickup. There are no additional fees for this wonderful service. I don't even need to get out of my car, they'll load them all for me. Walmart grocery pickup is seriously the best thing for busy families!
Walmart will send you a text when your groceries are ready, usually within the timeframe that you chose the day before. I always pick mine up first thing in the morning if it's available so that I can move on with the rest of my day.
The Dinner Daily Grocery List
After you've reviewed your meal plan and grocery list, The Dinner Daily will send your entire online grocery list to the store of your choice if it has grocery pick up. Unfortunately, I haven't seen them add this to Walmart yet, but if you have grocery pickup at Kroger, Smith's, etc, they'll send your list over to them and all you need to do is review and add anything else you need. Yipee!
Save Money by Making a List of What's in the Fridge
Throughout the week when you're making your recipes, you're going to have leftovers or extra ingredients. Believe it or not, keeping a list of these things on the outside of your fridge will save you money. If you and your family can see what is in the fridge, it will (hopefully) spark ideas into your mind about what snacks to make or what leftovers to take to work for lunch. Then, when the item is used, erase it.
Decide for Yourself What Time and Money Saving Method Will Work Best for You
I've laid out several different ways you can save time and money on meal planning and grocery shopping. All ways do not use coupons and we are able to stick to our budget of $150 per week for our family of 6. You could save even more money if you do use coupons! Whichever way works best for you, be sure to know that it doesn't have to be perfect. Do what works best for your family! If you want to be in complete control of your groceries, the Walmart grocery pickup may not be for you. However, The Dinner Daily will at least get your shopping list ready for you to take to the store. The rest is just a matter of inventorying your kitchen to see what you need from the online grocery list.
How do you meal plan for your family? What's your method? I'd love to hear what works for you in the comments below.