A valuable way to save money, decrease the time you spend shopping and cooking, and create good healthy eating habits is to start meal planning.
First, go through your kitchen and pantry and eliminate ALL unused items cluttering the cabinets and taking up space. If the thought of trying to de-clutter is overwhelming, follow this step-by-step kitchen cabinet organization plan that will leave you will feel accomplished after each step. And over time, you will learn what items you tend to use more often, so you can stock up on those basics when they go on sale.
Beware that even though buying in bulk may save you money, it also can lead to clutter, excess waste and weight gain. It is typically suggested to buy in preparation for 3-5 days at a time.
A great way to remind yourself and your family of the meal plan for the week is to write it on a a blackboard or wipe-off board in the kitchen.
When planning out your meals, remember these 3 important ingredients: protein, vegetables and grain. The secret to easy meal planning is finding some good sauces and salad dressings that you can interchange with the same basic meals to make them different. Try to reuse your dinner ingredients for the next day’s lunches. Good staples for dinner/lunch would be rice, salad, or chicken strips.
Things to consider when you plan meals:
- The weather and temperature – a soup on a hot day may not be advised
- Sales at the grocery store – even a sale on items you typically may not use could lead to your new favorite meal
- Use a crock-pot – cooking in a crock-pot on a busy day will give you freedom to accomplish those last-minute afternoon tasks without having to resort to the drive-thru.
- Have a shopping list – it prevents you from wasting time and buying random items you “think” you need
- Have shopping days – this puts your family’s meals on a set schedule and keeps you from overspending your budget
- Have theme nights – Are Tuesdays your crazy “every kid has a soccer practice” kind of day? Having a theme night, such as Tuna Tuesday, will keep you sane by planning with a simple tuna melts or tuna casseroles.
- ·Pinterest – it takes five minutes to find five new incredibly easy recipes that your family will love. You can set up “boards” on your pinterest account with favorite things you want to try and save for a later date – you can then access the recipes from your phone or tablet right from the grocery store, so you never forget an ingredient!
- Plan leftovers – Cooking a bit extra at dinner for the next day’s lunches will save you from an extra to-do in the morning.
- Create A Help-List – when your kids are old enough, giving assigned tasks will help meals run smoothly. Setting the table, cutting the vegetables, or feeding the dog are easy tasks for the kids that will give you more time to create that fabulous meal!
When it comes to dessert… are you a dessert person? Spare yourself the struggle and keep it out of the house! Instead drive, walk or run as a family to the local ice cream or cupcake shop. Your body will thank you.