Meal Planning 101

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It’s a huge sacrifice for me to stay home, so we have to get creative with how we can save money.  Before our daughter was born we would go grocery shopping multiple times a week.  We lived and ate by the seat of our pants, and it cost us roughly $400 a month (including eating out).  Besides spending more, I was always finding spoiled leftovers and produce in our fridge.  The leftovers would get hidden behind the milk carton or a big jar of pickles, and when we were hungry for a snack we would open the pantry and grab the most accessible item (chips, chocolate, cookies, etc.).  So basically we were spending a lot on food, but it would go bad anyways, and we weren’t eating healthy stuff because it was easier to grab the junk food.

After E was born, I looked for ways to save some green while hoping to eat more greens.  I remember talking to some friends about saving money, and they suggested that we shop at Aldi for groceries.  At first I was skeptical, but now I am an Aldi fanatic!  If you aren’t shopping there, you are wasting your money.  I could spend the same amount of money at Target, and come out with a quarter of the groceries that I get from shopping at Aldi.  Ok, I’ll leave my soapbox now, but I had to share that with you!

It took a couple of months to get into this new way of planning meals, cooking, and organizing, but once I got the hang of it all and made it a habit and my life become much more manageable.  Today, I’ll share the benefits of meal planning; how I plan meals; a list of cheap and easy meals; and how to organize your fridge to prevent spoiling and promote healthy eating habits.


Benefits of Meal Planning:

  1. You save $$$$$$$$$$$ (because eating out is expensive!)
  2. Less trips to the store = more $ saved!
  3. Makes meal prep much easier
  4. Doubling meals (while saving the rest as leftovers in your fridge or freezer) means less cooking later!
  5. It’s healthier (food made at home is usually healthier than fast food)

Basically, it’s a good thing.  But it does take some practice.  Just with any other habit, you have to work on doing this until it becomes part of your routine.  Once that happens, you’ll never regret it!


How to Plan your Meals

I start out by making a list of meals for the next 2 weeks.  Some people plan a whole month’s worth of meals, but that’s a daunting task if you’re just staring out!  So don’t go crazy and just start simple and just try a week if that is easier for you to digest.

I plan 14 breakfasts, 14 lunches, and 14 dinners.  I try to double most recipes which saves me from having to cook all the time!  Below is an example of a typical 2 week period:

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As you can see, I write the number of times I can use that meal next to it.  So if I am doubling my chicken wild rice recipe, I write a 2 next to it, because it’s good for 2 meals.

After coming up with a list, I decide what meals go where on my calendar.  There are certain meals that I try to prepare first in order to prevent spoiling of perishable items like bread and produce.

Once my two weeks worth of meals are written down, I then create a grocery list.  Once I have my list, I go to the store to shop.


 List of Cheap of Easy Meals


 How to Organize Your Fridge

When I come back from grocery shopping, I take all of these beautiful dollar store bins out of our fridge.

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I labeled them the days of the week, and put a week’s worth of produce (among other things) in each bin to make life a little bit easier.

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After writing it all down, I put each day’s worth of meals on a post-it note.  That note will eventually go on top of my plastic bins, thus making it easier to know what I’m cooking, and which foods go in which container.

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I set my produce in the sink and wash it off.  Then I take out my plastic baggies and a knife for the next step.

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After washing the fruit, I put them into snack bags.  I don’t cut produce (other than celery) until the day I serve it; this helps keep the produce from spoiling faster.  As you can see, I place the bag of fruit into the container according to my meal plan.  Having fruit/veggies that are easily accessible helps me curb my desire for chocolate.

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I do the same thing with my veggies.

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And yogurt.

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And oatmeal. Mornings are hectic sometimes (especially Sundays before church), so I needed a quick way to make a decent breakfast.

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 There you have it!  Breakfast and lunch are in each container, so all I have to do is pull it out when we get hungry.  Do you see how easy it is to locate things in my fridge? These trusty containers make my life so much easier.

So, That’s how I save money, maintain healthy eating habits, and organize my food.

Please try those recipes, and tell me what you think?  I found most of them from Pinterest, and I implore you to start following me for more recipes!

So, what is your favorite simple, delicious, and cheap recipe?

 

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. chris says:

    Thanks for sharing your strategy! I’ve been thinking about doing this when I move into my own apartment later this year, and it helps to have an insight on how to get started 🙂

    1. Janell says:

      You’re welcome! I hope my suggestions work for you 🙂

  2. I love your tips! Very straightforward. Aldi is one of my favorite grocery stores also. Will definitely try some of those recipes…they sound delicious!

    1. Janell says:

      Aldi is the best!

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