I have been talking to a lot of friends about meal planning lately. In life I am a big time planner, and I love to meal plan. It saves money and it is healthier. I wish I could tell you this post will "give you 30 days of meals for $200 a month", but that is not the case. Though I meal plan, I still spend $300-400 dollars a month on food. I buy A LOT of produce and that is usually where the bulk of my grocery bill goes, that and fish. I just thought I would share how I meal plan and hopefully someone can get something out of it.
I start off by printing off a calendar and going through my recipe book. My recipe book is super ghetto, it is just a large binder filled with plastic pages and plastic 4x6 photo card pages. A few years ago my Mom gave me the best Christmas present, she typed up her recipes and put them in a binder, that was the start of my recipe book. Since then I print off a lot of recipes and slip them in plastic pages or jot them down on a recipe card and stick them in. If you want some cute free printable recipe cards, check out these and these.
When planning, I plan a month at a time. I then transfer it over onto my weekly menu board each week, and make a grocery list from there. I also have a grocery list hanging on the side of the fridge at all time, so that if I run out of something while cooking or baking, I can jot it down so I don't forget.
eclair cake for my Father-in-law's birthday.
Another thing I try to do when planning to make the most out of my grocery list is I try to plan multiple meals in the month using the same ingredients. For example if I buy cilantro, I will make Lime and Coconut Chicken week 1, Taquitos week 2, and Honey Lime Chicken Skewers week 3, that way I am using all my cilantro and it is not going bad. Another example would be buying corn tortillas, they come in a large bag, so I make Fish Tacos week 1, Taquitos week 2, and enchilada casserole week 3.
Meal planning takes a little time, but I think it actually saves time, because once you have done it for the month, you're done! No standing in front of the fridge thinking "what should we have for dinner tonight?" and no extra trips to the grocery store (which saves money!)
As far as snack items go, we buy a few things like dried fruit and nuts at Costco, and then keep them portioned out in the pantry. I try to make a lot of items that are expensive, like granola bars. I have found some great recipes on Pinterest for things like home made granola bars, muffins, mason jar salads, and smoothies. The great thing about making your own is they are less expensive and more healthy!
I have found this is what works for my family and am always on the lookout for tips and tricks to implement that will save time and money. Feel free to check out my board "Recipes I've Made and Yum!" If you have any advice or ideas, please share!