Friday, June 22, 2012

Frugal Friday: Menu Planning

A lot of summer talk around here lately! Last week I shared with your our plan for summer, including a free printable weekly summer calendar where you can plan out your activities. Planning your activities really helps you save money and stick within a budget. To help you find frugal activities, I shared over 100 ideas for frugal family activities for summer. And today I want to help you with the second tip that I shared for keeping your family's summer on a budget, but it works for any time of the year!

2. Plan your meals

Meal planning is a great way to save money, save time, eat healthier, and keep family dinner time a priority in your home. By planning ahead you can save money by planning meals based on what goes on sale in the store, what you have in your pantry, or what you have in your garden. With a plan in place, you will eat out less and make fewer trips to the store, thus saving money and time. Planning ahead helps to ensure that your family is getting balanced, healthy meals. 

Today I want to share with you the way we plan our meals to save money and time. 

Breakfasts around here tend to be spontaneous and flexible. For special occasions, I plan bigger or fancier breakfasts, but usually we just eat the following:

  • Sugar-free Oatmeal - this is our standby breakfast that we have 2 or 3 times every week. It is fast, easy, and healthy. I love it when we have fresh fruit around from our garden because it makes it even better!
  • Smoothies - We love to make smoothies for breakfast. We've been trying all kinds lately with all the fresh greens that we have growing in our garden. Here's a green smoothie formula that we use a lot. 
  • Yogurt & Granola - We love to eat homemade yogurt and this granola, especially in the spring and summer. Sometimes we add fresh fruit or jam to make it even tastier!

Lunches for us are usually leftovers, freezer burritos, sandwiches, or the like. I love simple, low hassle lunches. When we are running around, I make sure we have things in the freezer to pull out for on-the-go lunches or snacks.

I am a huge advocate of family dinner time. I think it's so important to sit together with your family at the end of the day and enjoy a delicious meal together and each other's company. Family meals help you create a healthy family. The biggest roadblock to having dinner with your family is knowing what to make. In fact, I think dinners are the most challenging part of meal planning. I love the food nanny's approach to planning dinner with a theme-night each week. Here's the menu plan that I use that you can download at the link below.

You can either keep a consistent them for each night every week or you can switch it around a bit. We do a little of both. We usually have 3 or 4 nights that are a consistent theme and the rest we switch around to adapt to our activities for the week. 

Here's an example of some meal themes that we use.

Monday: Mexican
Tuesday: Fish/Meatless
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Italian
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Grill/Meat
Sunday: Comfort Food/Traditional

Other themes ideas include: Soup, Breakfast, Asian, Favorites, Picnic, Fiesta, Cultural, etc. Be creative and make it fun! What kinds of food does your family love? Use those to set your theme nights.

After you pick the theme, you select dinner recipes that fit within that theme and your budget. As you plan your menus, you write the ingredients for the meals that you need at the grocery store (that you don't have already in your pantry or freezer). One of the reasons I love this plan is that I only need to go grocery shopping every two weeks. Sometimes I do have to do a quick run to pick up perishable items one more time, but often I can plan so that I don't (especially when our garden is in season). Having only one main shopping trip every two weeks saves me a lot of time and money.

In the future, I will be sharing with you some of our family's favorite meal plans. But for now I hope that gives you something to get started with in planning your family's meals. 

Have you tried meal planning? What has worked or not worked for you? What are some of your family's favorite meals?


Emily3 said...

This is a very helpful meal planning post. Thanks for sharing your printable, and your various suggestions for meal themes. I have been using your printable on and off for 7 months now!

Heather {Healthy Family Cookin} said...

Thanks for sharing Emily3! Glad it's working for you. It works for our family too. We've been using it for 4 or so years with lots of success. Good luck!

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