Save time and money with meal planning

Meal Planning

by Susanne Myers, The Hillbilly Housewife

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I'm so excited to be back for another week here on The Dollar Stretcher to share some more frugal home-cooking tips. I would like to thank Gary for allowing me to write on this wonderful website and promote breast cancer awareness at the same time. This week I'd like to talk about meal planning.

Meal Planning? Why?

Let's start by taking a look at why we would want to plan our meals head of time in the first place. After all, it does take a bit of time and effort to sit down every week and plan what's for dinner each night. At first glance, it may seem easier to just be spontaneous and go with what you're in the mood for that night.

There are two problems with that last strategy. You're most likely not going to have the ingredients you need to prepare the meal, which means you'll either have to run to the store or you end up ordering take-out or picking up fast food to avoid having to run to the store.

If you take the time to plan your meals ahead of time, you will save time (because you don't have to run to the store multiple times), you'll save money (because you'll order less takeout and fast food and you only buy what you need, resulting in less food being thrown out), and you'll end up cooking healthier and more wholesome meals for yourself and your loved ones. In my book, those benefits greatly outweigh the fact that I have to spend an hour a week sitting down and meal planning.

Different Ways to Use Meal Planning

Next let's look at the different approaches to meal planning. If you are new to meal planning, you may want to start out with the first. I'd encourage you to give each style a try and see which one works best for you and your family.

The Night Before - Sit down at night after dinner and plan your meals for the next day. This could be just dinner, or you can plan every meal and snack you are going to have that day. Go ahead and look through your pantry and fridge to see what you can make with what you already have and note anything you may need to pick up from the store.

A Week at a Time - This is the method I use on a regular basis. I sit down on Sunday afternoon and plan our meals for the coming week. I post the menu on the fridge and make out my shopping list. I usually shop on Mondays.

Two or More Weeks at a Time - If you prefer to plan further ahead and shop less often, you can also plan your meals for two weeks or even an entire month. While you can buy the bulk of your groceries just once during that time period, I recommend you shop for fresh meat and produce once a week.

Rotating Menus - This is another great option that saves a lot of time. You basically make out a few menus (six to eight weeks' worth is a good start) and then rotate through them. If you are using this method, plan on adjusting your menus through the seasons to take advantage of what produce is readily available. You also probably don't want to eat the same types of foods in the winter as in the summer.

To learn more about meal planning, get a copy of Susanne's Meal Planning Made Simple. Not only will you learn more about meal planning, but also how to make your own plans and grocery list. Included are six weekly dinner plans along with shopping lists.

Susanne Myers is responsible for website. You may want to check out the, a membership site for frugal minded moms where we share recipes, tips and plenty of resources to help us all stretch each dollar to the max.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more on meal planning, please The Dollar Stretcher library.
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