Keep Meal Planning Simple to Save Time and Money

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save money on groceriesMay is national egg month. I’m known by my friends for my family’s massive consumption of eggs. As a family of 4 (two adults, a 2.5 year old and 6 month old) we go through 6-7 dozen in a WEEK. Just to clear the air, we just got our cholesterol levels checked at our annual health screen last month and they are wonderful. As a dietitian I can tell you with confidence to eat your eggs, yolk and all, knowing that they are doing your body good. We haven’t bought a box of cereal or a container of milk in years because eggs (protein) are our main breakfast item along with veggies (carbs) and butter (fat) to make a balanced meal. When you consider the cost of a box of cereal and milk compared to our breakfast we have shaved quite a bit off our grocery bill from that change alone. All of that to say- we have breakfast for dinner at least twice a week for two reasons.

1. It saves money
2. It takes the pain out of meal planning

My week in meals

I have hundreds of recipes on my Pinterest boards but you’ll notice a trend in my “What We Ate” posts that I tend to rotate through the same 10 meals over the course of a month with a few exceptions. Practicing simplicity and having a routine has helped our grocery budget and allowed for a less overwhelming week to plan. On occasion we will make something unique but for the most part my grocery list looks the same week in and week out. A typical week of meals in my home looks something like this:
 
Breakfast:
Eggs & veggies cooked in butter
Lunch:
Giant salad –> PROTEIN: hard boiled eggs & chicken or tuna, FAT: feta, walnuts, avocado, olive oil (mixed with balsamic vinegar), and CARBS: greens, peppers, broccoli slaw, tomatoes, and other veggies we have on hand.
Snacks:
Plain Greek yogurt with frozen fruit (made the night before so it thaws by the time I eat it) and nuts. Another common option is fruit with nut butter and hard boiled eggs.
Dinner: Mondays & Wednesdays- eggs with veggies cooked in butter. We alternate making homemade hashbrowns and protein pancakes
Tuesday- Fish or ground beef taco bowls
Thursday- crockpot rotisserie chicken
Friday- Soup from homemade crockpot broth
Saturday- leftovers
Sunday- Salmon burgers with mixed veggies cooked in coconut oil or butter topped with avocado

Streamline the process

Knowing what’s in my freezer and how much we have left helps tremendously with meal planning. I don’t have anything sitting in my deep freezer that I’ve forgotten about or I plan to make ‘someday’ which means less money is wasted. My grocery trips even with 2 kids in tow take 15 minutes because I know exactly what I need and where to find it so there’s no wandering the aisles and adding things to my cart I didn’t have on my list.
If you want to start meal planning but aren’t sure where to start, here’s a suggestion:
Get a cheap dollar store marker board or make your own with a picture frame. I have a separate meal calendar from the family calendar with events and such. All I do is come up with what protein source I want to make for dinner then fill in details with fat and carbs. The protein portion typically takes the longest to prepare especially if you have to thaw it first so this helps me remember to pull out a whole chicken from the freezer on Monday so it’s ready to cook by Thursday and get a pound of ground beef out for tacos while I’m at it.
Fats are typically butter, oil, cheese, nuts, or avocado and carbs are some type of produce. I’m telling you- dinner time is breeze now that this has become my new routine and I’m not left staring into the fridge hoping something magically appears or an idea pops into my head.

Additional tips

If you want to save even more time, make big batches and freeze the extra for a night when you need dinner in a pinch. Make 2 chickens in the crockpot and shred one to freeze in a Ziploc bag. Do the same with ground beef seasoned for tacos. I make rice in big batches to freeze it flat in quart size Ziplocs since it thaws quickly and  seems go be a good portion for one dinner. I’ll even add a squeeze of lime and cilantro since cilantro comes in a huge bunch and I never use it all in one dinner.
Don’t try to attempt to create an elaborate meal plan all at once; start with a few changes and gradually build up habits that will allow meal planning to be more of a routine. You’ll save time and money along the way and avoid the stress that leaves you resorting to take-out. Again.
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Money

Derek

AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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