& Mistakes to Avoid
Meal planning is a huge money saver! Last year I was spending on average $900-$1200 on food and I was wondering where all my money went. And to be completely honest, wondering why we have no food in the house. Now we are spending $600 for ALL food (home cooked & dinning out) and I’m pretty sure we can cut this down even more. Baby Steps.
Mistakes to Avoid:
01. Not Making a List
This is bad for so many reasons:
Impulse buying. Without meal planning, I would constantly go into stores without a list. When I did have a list, it was staples that I had forgotten to buy constantly. Mainly, I forgot condiments ALL THE TIME.
Multiple grocery trips. Because I forgot something I’d have to go back to the store and become victim to more impulse buying.
THE FIX.Make a list.
First of all I’m not saying that Pinterest is bad. It also isn’t a bad idea for meal planning. What I did was bad though. I looked up freezer meals and meals that I had pinned that looked delicious. I ended up meal planning around 2 weeks worth of freezer meals and 2 weeks of pinned meals. So far so good right? Sure.
Here’s the problems (and yes there’s more than one):
1. My oldest kiddo & I are picky eaters.
This was worse with the freezer meals because I had made batches. Some were just double and others were quadruple. I ONLY liked one freezer meal that I had made and that was fajitas (something we make regularly anyways). So now I had 10 meals that I didn’t like taking up space in my freezer.
2. By supper time I’m exhausted
This was great for the freezer meals…if I had liked them. Most of the meals I had pinned were pretty good. I didn’t care for a few but my husband & littles loved most of them. HOWEVER, we didn’t eat all the meals. Why? Because those Pinterest meals I pinned are ridiculously labor intensive! And require time, not that I don’t have time to make these but I really just didn’t want to. One of them required me to start cooking at 3:30. TWO HOURS. Nope not doing that one – at least not that frequently. This was completely my fault though, I wasn’t looking at cook times. Also apparently I’m slow at prepping – let’s dice up 20 pounds of veggies but prep time is 5 minutes…
THE FIX. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try new recipes or use Pinterest. Limit new recipes to once or twice a week. If your family enjoys it, then add it to you meal list. They hate it? Don’t make it again. Remember Meal Planning should be making your life easier not harder!
03. Not Following through.
Because of the listed reasons above, we ordered out, got fast food, and some frozen pizza. Eventually, all that food had gone bad and just ended up being a huge waste of money.
THE FIX.Pick foods you are capable of making in that time period and that you & your family will enjoy.
04. Not Buying Snacks
The only snack we had was for my oldest school lunches. Some gummies, apple sauce, crackers, cheese strings, and some granola bars. But nothing really for the rest of us. This led to convenient store shopping and NONE of it was healthy foods.
THE FIX. Buy snacks! We try to plan for 3 snacks per day minimum.
05. Produce Waste
Some produce just doesn’t last as long as other. I plan a shopping trip once a week because of this. Recipes that require fresh produce I try to make at the beginning of the week. And leave frozen or longer lasting produce for the end of the week.
THE FIX.Shop accordingly to your recipes. If your recipes have lots of fresh produce plan to small shopping trips more often
Steps to Meal Plan – The Right Way
Step 01. Make a list of you favorite meals.
Breakfast, Lunch, Supper & SNACKS.
I’ll Include a downloadable PDF to help you list your family’s go-to meals.
Step 02. Sort Dinners into time frames.
I sorted mine into 3 categories; Under 30 minutes, 30 minutes to 2 hours, and all day.
This is optional but I sort mine also into ingredients of the main because I try to get variety from day to day. Here’s the categories I used; beef, pork, chicken, pasta, Fish & others.
Step 03. Get your calendar.
Before you start adding meals into your menu planner, check your calendar! Be reasonable, you aren’t going to want to come home and cook for 2 hours if your kids have soccer practice or some other conflicting event.
Step 04. Check Flyers.
Go through your flyers and choose your meals accordingly to what’s on sale. When meat I regularly use goes on sale, I tend to buy a lot and freeze it.
Step 05. Start adding meals to your planner.
Add meals to your meal planner according to the time you have to prepare your dinners. Personally, I like to plan 2 weeks in advance and I shop once per week.
I try to plan for at least 3 snacks per day for my entire family of 5.
If you’re looking for a meal planner, we also have our meal planning kit in our freebie library or download it down below!
This meal planner kit includes; a weekly menu planner, a monthly meal planner, grocery lists, a favorite list pack (& a favourite list for UK English). It includes 14 unique pages and can be printed again & again.
Step 06. Make a list from your plan.
Go through each recipe and start your list. I put each item into categories – meats, produce, frozen, dairy, etc. This way I don’t miss things in the store or I’m running all around the store like a crazy person.
TIP: Make separate lists based on the number of grocery trips you plan on making. Don’t buy fresh ingredients 2 week in advance unless you plan on freezing it AND CAN FREEZE IT!
Step 07. SHOP
It’s shopping time!
TIP: Lots of stores have price matching (they’ll match the price of the same products from other stores), using this will save you tons of time and money!
Optional Step. Prep
This is completely optional and I don’t usually do it but it helps. The most I ever do is cut extra veggies or grate extra cheese if I know that I’ll be using them within the next couple of days.
Have you made any of these mistakes?
PS: I have this awesome freebie library that you should check out & yes – it’s all free!