Meal planning for a family is an ongoing battle. Once children move on from milk and baby food, they develop their own tastes and preferences, which often don’t align with those of their parents. If you’re really lucky, like me, you’ll have more than one child and each child will have their own unique food aversion. For example, in my family I have one child who hates cheese, another who is a vegetarian, and one who needs to be cajoled and/or tortured into eating his vegetables.
We all know we should have a system for meal planning because we know from experience that the lack of a meal plan leads to fast food or convenience meals, which we feel guilty about later because of the lack of nutrition and the hit to the pocketbook. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years experimenting with different techniques and here is the plan that has worked the best for me.
Warning: I am too lazy to sift through dozens of ads. I do use coupons, but I stick with coupon sites that let me print off only the ones I need or that I virtually click and are automatically applied to my total via my grocery store customer card. If you are an extreme couponer, you can certainly save more money following a different plan. But if you have other demands on your time, this system should help you stick to a budget and still have time to do the 8,000 other things moms have to do.
- Keep a small memo/list pad on your refrigerator or near the pantry door where you and other family members can write down items as they are depleted.
- Create a recipe binder. I use dividers to separate my recipes by entree type: beef, poultry, fish, vegetarian, soup/stew.
- I use page protectors for each recipe. This makes it easy to store recipe sheets/cards of all shapes and sizes and provides the added benefit of being easy to clean off when you accidentally get a drop of spaghetti sauce on the recipe.
- Each week go through the binder and pick 5-6 entree recipes and decide which side dishes you will serve with each. We always have one leftover night so I never plan 7 meals for the week.
- Create your shopping list from the meal plan, add breakfast, lunch, and snack items that you need and any items from the refrigerator list.
- If you are a couponer, gather the coupons for items that are on your list. I do not bring other coupons because I have found I actually spend more because I buy things that I normally wouldn’t purchase just because I have the coupon.
- Stick to the list! I will sometimes make an exception if I stumble upon a great deal on an item that I usually buy but for one reason or another isn’t on this week’s list. I have found that it is much easier to follow this rule if you shop without the children because they will WEAR YOU DOWN. If this isn’t an option for you, I have had success buying myself some peace by allowing each child to pick ONE item that isn’t on the list which we do not put into the cart until I have gathered everything that is on the list.