Making Meal Plans Easy and Budget Friendly!!

Working, taking care of the kids and their activities, seeing family and friends, and fitting in anything extra can be a juggling act for any type of family. Many times, the last thing you want to do is cook. This can lead to ordering fast food or prepackaged meals. Eating these meals consistently for one year has so much sugar and sodium, they could both, individually, fill a wheelbarrow.

Another common issue is walking into the market or grocery store, looking around and saying…. shit… now what? Where do I start and what the hell am I going to make this week that we all enjoy?? **frustration, sweating, and anxiety begins**. I’m pretty sure everyone has been there and everyone, now and then, comes home with what feels like nothing but a blown budget; I’ve been guilty of this many times. It’s so frustrating!! You then hate grocery shopping and that leads to hating cooking and then that… my lovely friends… leads to pure sadness. Don’t hate cooking!! Come on! It’s one of the first places you end up in the morning and one of the last places at night. It’s the heart of the home and it’s the one place where we all have control, for our health and our family members’ health. It’s where we can laugh, cry and feel excitement or frustration, no matter what, the kitchen is a place we can return with a clean slate and have a better experience from the last. We all have memories from our childhood which included a kitchen… so from here, lets create new memories with our loved ones.

Steps:
1. Relax and get comfortable
2. Grab a pen and paper, cookbooks, computer etc..
3. Make your chart (keep reading!)
4. Fill your chart with my tips
5. Smile and Conquer.

The Meal Plan

Okay, give yourself half an hour, one day a week. Do it when you can sit and kind of relax a bit. Grab a coffee or glass of wine, your computer or cookbook and breathe. Get ready to use this as a downtime moment, don’t associate this with frustration or annoyance!

Take a pad of paper and a pen and down the left side of the paper, write the days of the week vertically, only taking up 1/3 of the page. However many days you shop for at a time, 3 days, 7 days, it doesn’t matter, that’s dependent on your schedule (example chart is found below).

Now, let’s use the example that you shop for 7 days at a time. Think about your week ahead of you and what is to come. Do you work Monday to Friday? Do you have dinner plans at someone’s house that week? Or does little Tommy have a tournament this weekend? Consider it all! It’ll end up cutting down the grocery bill!

So, say you are going to a family BBQ on Saturday and you guys are gone morning to night, cut that day out, no need for groceries for Saturday (unless you need to bring something)! Say the rest of the week is fairly normal, just work and/or school, the odd after work or school activity but you’re eating at home.

So from here, think about the days that are busier than others. Evenings where you’re home later from work or you have an activity happening, do those first. Pick easy recipes, for example my recipe for Simple Shrimp Stir-Fry, if you don’t like shrimp or you’re a vegetarian, use any protein you’d prefer. Maybe a Salad with a protein or a wrap instead.

Below your weeknights, make columns going across your page the opposite way of the weekdays, horizontally. Write categories that you buy from. “Produce”, “Meat”, “Dairy”, “Pantry”… do this because as you go through the market or grocery store, you won’t miss anything and you won’t backtrack. Backtracking leads to picking up extra, unhealthy, unnecessary items.

So as you chose your meals, write the needed ingredients into the columns: also, remember the stuff you have at home already… incorporate them! You have tortilla wraps in the freezer? Oh! Well, bonus! Don’t need to buy them for your easy wrap and salad night!  This trick also helps for realizing you may have to go to a few different places for your ingredients. For example, you may make a column called “Home Cleaners” and you know that they are on sale somewhere, write it down! It’s like a map!

Now think of recipes you have more time to do. These nights may be a Sunday night or a weeknight, where you’ll have an hour before dinner is on the table. These recipes may be things like a pasta recipe, a meat, vegetable, and starch meal; it could also be something that you want to throw more effort into, like my Tomato Tart recipe, just add a side salad and you’re set.

Also, remember those vegetables you decided to use already for the busy nights because you may have leftovers to use another night. You then can save on buying extra vegetables. For example, if you are making a stir-fry, you’ll probably have a variety of leftover vegetables from that, so use them in a salad or wrap in another meal.

I am horrible for not using a cookbook properly, I’ll use them for ideas of different ingredients then lose attention and make up recipes. But! They are really, really helpful for those who want to try recipes and don’t want to experiment. If you choose to use a recipe, say Thursday, or on every night, write the page number beside the day and there it will also be beside the recipe. It all becomes organized! With little effort!  So you’ll want to keep this chart and put it on your fridge to remember everything for the week.

Keep reading! Blogs to come: tips on involving your kids and spouse in cooking meals, as well as tips on getting to know your local grocery store and market!

Example of my grocery chart, add meat and veg enough for lunches the next day!:

Friday: Honest Attempts Simple Shrimp Stir-Fry
Saturday: Away for the day
Sunday: Bacon n’ Egg Breakfast/ Honest Attempts Tomato Tart with a Mixed Greens Salad
Monday: Honest Attempts Sweet n’ Savory Kabobs with Potatoes
Tuesday: Steak. Potatoes and Honest Attempts 3 Minute Cucumber Salad substitute with Thyme
Wednesday: Honest Attempts Blueberry and Red Pepper Salad with Grilled Chicken
Thursday: Honest Attempts Applewood Beetroot Tuna Sandwiches with Homemade fries
Produce                         Meat                    Dairy                     Bakery                  Pantry 
Zucchini                          Shrimp                  Butter                        Bread                  Baked Beans
Carrots with tops(2)     Kabob Beef           Eggs                                                        Flour
Green Onion                  Bacon                     Gruyere(100 g.)                                    Dijon Mustard
Radishes                         Steak                                                                                       Sugar
Garlic Cloves                Chicken                                                                                  White Wine Vinegar
Potatoes                                                                                                                          Sunflower Seeds
Red pepper (2)                                                                                                              Can of Tuna
Tomato (4)                                                                                                               Applewood Smoked Salt
Plums (3)                                                                                                                     Apple Cider Vinegar
Sage                                                                                                                               Mayo or Veganaise
Thyme
Cucumber (2)
Red Onion (1)
Spinach for Salad
Lemon (1)
Beetroot (1)
Blueberries

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