Meal planning is maybe the thing I get asked about the most. It’s why we include new meal plans in our membership each month, and it’s probably what I talk about the most on Instagram stories.
Why? Cause we all have to eat dinner every night, which means we have to MAKE dinner every night, and sometimes that’s exhausting.
It doesn’t have to be, though. In fact, meal planning (and even cooking!) for your family can actually be a lot of fun! Today I’ve got 2 simple ways to meal plan that will make your life easier AND save you money!
Meal Planning Strategy #1: Theme Days
Creating theme days for your meal plan each week makes the planning aspect so much faster. I simply choose a “theme” for each day of the week, and stick to meals within that theme. Here are our themes:
- Monday: Chicken + Veggies Night
- Options: baked chicken, grape + shallot chicken, BBQ chicken sandwiches, etc. and always roasted veggies
- Tuesday: Taco Night
- Options: tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, enchiladas, enchilada casserole, nachos
- Wednesday: Slow Cooker Night
- Options: meatballs, meatball subs, cream cheese salsa chicken, pot roast, soup
- Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
- Options: pancakes, waffles, french toast, omelettes, plus always bacon or sausage + fruit
- Friday: Pizza Night
- Always take-out from the pizza joint down the road, and a family movie. Fridays are non-negotiable!
- Saturday: Grill Night
- Options: burgers and hot dogs, kabobs, steak, potatoes and/or roasted veggies
- Sunday: Pasta Night
- Options: spaghetti, pasta bake, pesto pasta, stuffed shells, and always salad + bread
How it saves TIME: By giving every night a theme, it’s WAY easier for me to choose meals each week! I know what our family loves within those categories, and I can easily pull from cookbooks or the Life Kit meal plans and grab a new chicken recipe, or pasta dish, or slow cooker meal.
How it saves MONEY: When I’m cooking similar things each week, there’s a lot I can buy in bulk – pasta, frozen meat, pancake + waffle mix, rice for tacos, etc. If I shop in bulk, I can keep prices down, AND if I know I’ve got these staples on hand, I’m much less likely to say “Forget it, let’s eat out!”
Meal Planning Strategy #2: Eat Whatcha Got
We almost always have a week of Eat Whatcha Got meals at the end of each month. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but to do this I simply look at what we have in the pantry and the freezer, and meal plan based off those items. I still stick to our theme days as much as possible!! We do this toward the end of the month when our wallets aren’t as full as we’d like them to be, and it always, always helps us get to the next month without regretting our financial decisions!
I did a whole video series on how I do this, which you can see right here in my Instagram story highlights. I talk about snack prep first, so to see JUST the pantry + freezer planning, click through to the first video where I’m wearing a white shirt. 😉 (You can watch even if you don’t have IG, just click this link on a computer and open in a browser window.)
How it saves TIME: Again, I don’t have to spend hours pouring through cookbooks or scrolling through Pinterest. I’m literally planning with what’s right in front of me. It takes five minutes. Max.
How it saves MONEY: I’m not shopping for new stuff, except the peripheral items that we might need (a veggie here, some dairy there, etc.). But the majority of the ingredients are coming from my pantry and freezer, so my shopping list (and bill!) is minimal.
Favorite Meal Planning Sources:
I do have a few favorite sources for meal planning, when I’m looking for a new recipe! Here are my favorites:
- The Anchored Life Kit Meal Plans – Like I said, this is my first go-to source for new recipes. Our team member Amanda is just naturally AMAZING when it comes to meal planning (she’s also a health coach!), and she’s the one in charge of putting our membership meal plans together. She does a fantastic job of finding meals that fall into 4 categories – quick + easy meals, freezer meals, crock pot meals, and allergy-friendly meals, plus she throws in a few classic favorites each month, too. Honestly, since we started this, I rarely use a cookbook or Pinterest anymore, because the meals she picks are so delicious and easy. I love them!
- Dashing Dish Cookbook – I love it when I find a cookbook that is FULL of things my family will eat. Not just one or two yummy recipes, but literally an entire book of recipes that sound good and aren’t full of crazy ingredients. This is that cookbook. Our family loves so many of the recipes in this book, they are now a part of our regular routines.
- Pioneer Woman – Everything she does is delicious. I bake her cinnamon rolls and apple dumplings as often as is socially acceptable. These save neither time nor money, but by golly they are WORTH IT. You’re welcome.
I know meal planning can easily seem like just one more thing we have to do, and it IS a responsibility, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. We can use meal planning to get creative, to nourish ourselves and our families, and to remember that food in the pantry and on the table is something we can always, always be grateful for.
Your turn! Do you think that one of these strategies would work well for you and your family this week? Tell me in the comments below!
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