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One of the top ways to save money or stick within a budget is to meal plan. Everyone knows that, right? And the resources available for meal planning can be found everywhere. Most people I’ve seen who talk about meal planning also talk about doing freezer meals or bulk cooking. While there’s definitely value in either of those methods, they’re just not for me. Personally, I think the whole finding a recipe, and buying ingredients to fit those recipes for the week is daunting. There are meal planning services out there that you can use to do just that. Again, that’s too much for me.

Besides, I’ve mentioned more than once how I don’t measure when I cook, unless it’s baking. So, again, recipes aren’t really my thing. I like the idea of meal recipes and I certainly get inspired by the awesome looking recipes out there. Since I don’t like to “follow the rules”, per se, I needed to find another method to meal plan. Enter the easy, stress-free meal planning method!

meal planning, budget, shopping, groceries, food, plan, planning, meals, calendar, easy, stress free

Ever since Hun and I have been together, this is how we’ve shopped. We have a weekly or bi-weekly food budget by which I use to do all of our grocery shopping.  There are some weeks we may go over a bit, but there are also weeks we are under our budget. Depending on what activities we have, our budget for the week may differ slightly.  Plus, because we don’t really buy boxed foods/meals, I tend to buy only what we need to make different things.

One other caveat, Hun doesn’t really like vegetables and if I didn’t make them available, he wouldn’t notice. In fact, when were newly in a relationship, he quite frankly told me he doesn’t eat vegetables. I, of course, balked at this idea and wondered why. But, I also laid down a rule, which went a little something like this: I will make vegetables. I expect that you will try them. If there’s something you really don’t like, we can talk about it. But, if we’re to have children and grow our family, there will be vegetables in our home at all times.

Although it may be surprising, he went with it. And now, 4 1/2 years later, there are (almost) always vegetables at the dinner table. More often than not, he will eat just a bit, which makes me happy. And, back when things were new when it came to vegetables, we would talk about the taste and texture. For example, I used to make steamed/boiled broccoli on the mushier side, now I don’t have to.

There are, of course, some things Hun just doesn’t much like.  I just choose not to stress about it or hound him about eating vegetables. Afterall, my thinking is, he’s an adult and he has the right and ability to make his own choices. This is also how I stay on my side of the street, so to speak, when it comes to certain things.

Enough about how I handle vegetable eating and on to the easy, stress-free method of meal planning I use.

easy-stress-free-meal-planning, stress free

First, we make grocery shopping a family affair.

These days, we do our grocery shopping once a week, usually on Friday or Saturday. Most of the time, we shop for our groceries in the morning or early afternoon.  Then, we spend the rest of the day on errands or some family adventure.  I like it this way, because it cuts down on the stress of wrangling the boys on my own or trying to plan grocery shopping excursions around tired and hungry times. Plus, in this way, I’m not as likely to buy any unnecessary or convenience/boxed foods.

Since the boys usually sleep until 10 or so, by the time they’re fully awake and we’ve had breakfast, it’s nearing afternoon. If we were to buy groceries, by the time we’re back home and settled the boys are going really crazy because they’re both hungry! This is never a good thing when you breastfeed, believe me. Not to mention, I’m usually hungry again as well and my patience is super thin.

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Know your staples.

I know what we eat most often. I know what Hun likes, what I like, and ways to spice things up. This helps when it comes to making lists, too.  For instance, Hun loves pasta so we have it at least once a week in some form or another. We also have rice a few times a week, since Hun is Puerto Rican. I’m still working on perfecting my rice game, but it’s definitely improved over the last 4 years. And, since Hun isn’t big on vegetables, we shop for our meat cuts first. We buy beef and pork primarily, but go with more chicken if that’s what works in your family. Additionally, Monkey Boy and I have a few eggs most days, so I always have at least a dozen eggs on hand.

Don’t forget the sales.

Since we shop once a week, I make an effort to check the sales at our favorite grocery stores. If they’re having a sale on chicken, for example, I make sure to buy a couple.  That way I can cook one and freeze at least one more. And, because I make most of our food from scratch, it’s nice to know when things like flour, sugar, and butter are on sale. That way, I can buy an extra one or two of those items as well.

I know many people find and use coupons. We don’t. Primarily we don’t because often it’s not stuff that we really want or need and also because at least one of the stores we shop at regularly doesn’t accept coupons.

Buy bigger cuts or packs of meat.

This goes along with not forgetting to shop sales, but is important even if there isn’t a sale going on. When you buy bigger packs or cuts of meat, you often can get more meals out of that one purchase.

So, even if you’re spending $12-15 on a beef roast, depending on what you choose to make, you should be able to get at least 2 meals out of it. Or, if your family doesn’t struggle with vegetables, you may even get 3 meals out of that one cut of beef. This also goes for things like pork shoulder. Every now and again, I’ll buy a pork shoulder (bonus when it’s on sale!) and cut it myself, in different ways. I can get chops/steaks, and boneless “ribs”, but also a smaller roast. Often, one pork shoulder will yield me at least 4 or 5 different meals (not all at once, unless you like pork that much).

Pull out your calendar and meal plan for each day of the week.

This step can be as detailed or not as you like. If you want or need more variety in your meals, by all means, feel free to plan your breakfast, lunch and dinner on this calendar. I’m not that detailed, unless I know ahead of time that we’ll all be home one day during the week. Generally, I just plan out what I’ll make for dinner each night and go from there. Monkey Boy and I often have leftovers from another day, make a sandwich (his favorite is pb&j), and add in yogurt and/or fruit. As I mentioned, we typically have eggs for breakfast, though sometimes we have cereal or even lunch for breakfast and then snacks later.

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When it comes to our dinner meals, I write which meat and an idea I have for making that meat, plus our starch and our vegetable(s). In doing this, I can make a note in my daily planner on when I might need to do something extra, like soak beans, make tortillas or bread, or make one of my quick and easy barbecue or tomato based sauces.

And there you have it. An easy, stress-free meal planning method! Outside of the shopping and the actual cooking, there’s little to no prep work or even thought involved. When I do make enough of one meal that can become 2 major meals (or a side of a major meal), then I certainly freeze those. This especially happens when I make soups, stews, or shredded beef/pork!

And, just in case you’re not sure this is as easy as it sounds, I’ll list a few of the benefits I’ve found with this method.

  • Lunch or snack eating meals are simple, homemade, and hot!
  • Your refrigerator and leftovers remain in balance. In other words, you likely won’t have lost leftovers somewhere in the refrigerator and you’ll also have many ways to reuse any leftovers you do have.
  • You can still vary your meals, include family favorites, and even experiment with new recipes whenever you like.
  • Dinner/meal time stress is greatly reduced! (The biggest benefit in my opinion.)
  • Less food waste!

This method of meal planning can also help to structure your week, even if you do choose to make some meals ahead of time.

And, just to help you out, I’ve created a calendar and basic grocery list to get you started meal planning now!

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Tell me, do you meal plan? If not, what are your struggles in meal planning? Also, tell me some of your favorite meals to make.

Easy, Stress-Free Meal Planning Method
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13 thoughts on “Easy, Stress-Free Meal Planning Method

    • September 13, 2016 at 1:51 pm
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      On resisted meal planning for some time, now though I think it’s wonderful. I used to think it was too much trouble. This method is so simple I can’t believe I waited to start using it. 🙂

      Reply
  • September 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm
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    I love your ideas. I can’t get interested in freezer cooking either so your method speaks to me. Thanks for posting!
    #happynowlinkup

    Reply
  • September 14, 2016 at 6:16 am
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    some excellent points, I also have a husband whom requires negotiating to eat veggies! #bloggybrunch

    Reply
    • September 14, 2016 at 10:38 am
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      Yes, men can be funny like that. Hun has even tried to blame his Puerto Rican heritage on the reason he doesn’t eat vegetables. Later, he admitted it’s a texture thing. lol 🙂

      Reply
    • September 15, 2016 at 7:02 pm
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      Sometimes sticking to what you’ve planned can be tricky when things come up, but even if you need to change things, you have something already for another dat/week! 🙂

      Reply
  • September 15, 2016 at 7:40 pm
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    With 3 sons and a food loving husband, meal planning is absolutely essential. I love that you make meal planning a family affair though it’s usually much more expensive to take the boys shopping with me. I do ask what they’d like to eat when I menu plan but then I shop on my own so it saves the impulse buys and temptations.

    Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup and I hope you link up with our Pretty Pinterest Party too that starts tomorrow morning. Pinning to our linkup board and hope you found some great posts to visit this week!
    Tanya @ Mom’s Small Victories recently posted…Small Victories Sunday Linkup {119}My Profile

    Reply
    • September 16, 2016 at 12:00 am
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      Oh, I can definitely see our grocery bill rising as the boys age, especially if they continue to come with me! It might also be a good time to incorporate some budgeting skills/practice (within reason) though.

      Also, I do enjoy the Small Victories Sunday linkup and there are Always great posts to be found! Thank you for sharing my post. 🙂

      Reply
  • September 15, 2016 at 9:32 pm
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    I know some members of my Husband’s Bolivian side of the family don’t eat much meat. Correction, they consider corn and potatoes to be proper vegetables. I do agree, though, that freezer meals don’t always work well for busy families. I prefer to make those on occasion and then use them in emergencies. Thanks for sharing your insight with the #happynowlinkup!
    Leslie recently posted…Bless This Child: Baby Boy’s Fall Inspired BaptismMy Profile

    Reply
    • September 16, 2016 at 12:04 am
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      Oh, you are so right on freezer meals. I don’t always plan to make them, but I do sometimes intentionally make enough for at least a lunch. I tend to do this most often with soups/stews/chili, which I don’t make very often in summer. Maybe I will do a post on my tips in the colder months!

      Ah, the old corn and potatoes are vegetables thing. I know so many consider corn a good vegetable, although personally we do not. Nonetheless, I guess we all learn to work within our own family dynamics. Sometimes that makes things so fun, but can also be a bit stressful. Thanks for swinging by again, Leslie! 🙂

      Reply
  • September 18, 2016 at 1:41 am
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    Love seeing how others meal plan! When we first got married, I was a die hard meal planner and the husband hated the idea of meal planning at all. We found a balance with what I like to call “flexible meal planning.” We plan out our meals for the week but we don’t assign them to a day until the night before or occasionally on the day of. It has all of the benefits of meal planning without the boxed in feeling that he disliked!
    Pam recently posted…September IntentionsMy Profile

    Reply

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*This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through, I may earn a small commission. Your price will never be affected by my affiliate link. On occasion, I also write sponsored posts, which help to run the blog as well. I thank you for supporting this space, so I can continue to share my journey and our family adventures. For more information, please visit the full disclosure here*


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