3 Meal Planning Tips: Saving You Time and Money!

I am sure you have heard meal planning can help you eat healthy and stick to a budget. This is true, no matter your culture, eating habits or household size, having a plan will prevent you from last minute drive-thru lunches and take and bake pizza dinners.  Although we all love a simple pizza dinner every once in a while.

Here are a couple ideas to help you to get into the habit of planning your meals.

Planning Meal Ideas

Jot down meal ideas to last two weeks and keep a running list with you at all times. This can be a simple notepad or a meal plan app such as Mealime, Yummly or Foodprint.

For your meal planning, double recipes for freezer meals and leftovers, and leave room for dining out. Make sure not to over plan. Over planning can lead to food waste and possibly leave you feeling burnt out from too much time in the kitchen. Keep your meals simple, especially if you do not enjoy cooking or have a busy schedule. Consider a no cook or raw meal every once in a while. In our house, we do a meal of cubed cheese, cold meat, raw veggies, fresh fruit and whole grain crackers every couple weeks. The kids love it and it works well on a busy weeknight.

You can also try meal delivery services such as Blue Apron, Sun Basket, etc. it works well as a supplement to  your planning. However, be sure the meals arrive on a good day for you to actually cook the food. The food will arrive fresh and need to be prepared within a day or two. In addition, check the portion options are sufficient for your family and will produce leftovers.

Planning a Meal Budget

Identify your food budget. Be sure to include a reasonable budget for dining out. Stick to your budget by eating seasonal produce, stocking up on meat when it is on sale or purchasing protein from a local meat supplier. In your meal plan, include a couple inexpensive, non-meat meals.

Eating healthier does not have to require spending more money.  A local holistic health coach can guide you to planning healthier meals without breaking the budget. Better Health by Heather has helped our family eat healthier (our kids now get a serving of veggies in their breakfast smoothies without even knowing it!).

Planning for Shopping & Preparing

Plan a day to do your grocery shopping. Take your list to your local grocery store and try your best to stick to the list. You may also consider grocery delivery. Stores may add on a minimal fee for deliver, but the cost typically is made up in the time you would spend driving and shopping.

Identify a day for food preparation. This does not need to be an entire day; just a day that you can prepare fresh produce for weekday lunches and after work and school snacking. Although, doing both shopping and food preparation in the same day may leave you feeling frustrated and burned out. Try to keep these days separated.

Have fun planning your meals and enjoy watching your family eat better. There is no perfect plan. Don’t get frustrated by wasted food or too much time in the kitchen. Learn from your mistakes and tweak your plan to best fit your household.

Not Enough Kitchen Cabinets

Not Enough Kitchen Cabinets

Is your kitchen too small?  You don’t have enough cabinets?  Not enough counter space?  Consider what is stored in your kitchen.

Make space in your kitchen

Reduce Items

  • Reduce items to only kitchens items and only one of each item.  One pizza cutter is enough.  One set of measuring cups is enough.  Limit serving platters to only what you need to host the largest party you have each year, dish towels to get you through until the next round of laundry.
  • One set of dishes, no more than three plates per person living in your home.  One set of flatware.  No more than three cups per person.

Organize Items

  • Group similar items and store them together.  Plastic storage containers stored together.  Stovetop cooking utensils stored together.
  • Store items by use: items you use everyday in cabinets and drawers within reach.  Occasional use items such as decorative serving platters on higher shelves, pots and pans stored together, near the stove.  Plastic wrap, foil and bags near the refrigerator for storing leftovers and preparing lunches.
  • See-through cabinets should be used to store visually pleasing items such as china.  Keep these cabinets uncluttered.
  • Cookbooks you use and love stored vertically on an open shelf or in a cabinet
  • If storage space is very limited, consider hanging pots and pans, aprons and hot pads.
  • For the pantry, sort food by category, toss old food and spices, consider see through containers for items that are loose and do not stack/stand well.
  • Create wall space for to-do-lists, mail sorting and calendars

Storage Gadgets

  • Invest in storage racks, containers and gadgets only when you have considered all the above.
  • Purchasing storage items prior to reducing and reorganizing can prove to be a waste of money if not well though out.  Lid racks, drawer dividers and in-cabinet organizers can be very useful with a good plan.

Organizing is a process, not a destination.  A professional organizer can help you make the most of your kitchen space.