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Have you ever seen those long menu planning idea posts and thought to yourself, “Man! I’d love to do that,” but you have no idea how to get started? It can be confusing if you aren’t sure where to start, but it doesn’t HAVE to be. With a few tips and a good meal planner printable you will be menu planning like a pro.
Menu planning is something that will not only help you stay organized, but it can save you BIG money off of your grocery bill. If you’re never questioning what is for dinner, you won’t be tempted to spend money on takeout. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of saving money by not shopping since you’ll only be shopping once or twice a month. Impulse buys are one of the biggest factors to a blown grocery budget out there. Combine menu planning with freezer cooking, and you’ve got a keeper in your money-saving arsenal.
Menu Planning 101 + Free Meal Planner Printable
To start menu planning, you’ll need to know what you have at your house and what you’ll need to buy. Go through your freezer, fridge, and pantry and take an inventory. It doesn’t have to be a complicated one, just something to let you know how much you already have and what the items are. You don't need to buy ketchup if you have four bottles of it!
Next, pull out your recipe file, log onto your favorite recipe site, or pull our your favorite budget cookbooks. Take the items you have on hand and fit them into as many recipes as you can. If you’ve got a recipe that needs an item or two, be sure to add those items to your shopping list so that you’ll have them when you’re ready to cook. Once you’ve run through the items you have on hand, start planning out the recipes you will need to shop for. In all, you’ll want a minimum of 15 recipes for a month long period. 15 lets you plan out 30 meals if you eat them twice a month.
Now, grab your trusty calendar you want to mark any events you have going on in your week or month, so you know when you need easier meals. Start placing your recipes on the calendar. To maximize savings, I like to include one breakfast for dinner meal, a meatless meal, and a leftovers meal once a week.
Once you’ve got your menu planned out, transfer them to a paper calendar, so everyone knows what is for dinner. I like to use a menu planning printable like the ones below. Write them on the paper calendar, so they’re set in stone so to speak. If you write them out like this, you’re more likely to follow it and stick to it.
Below is a video I made on how I menu plan.
That’s it! Seriously! Each morning when you get up, defrost what needs it, prep what needs prepped and cook dinner later that night! You already know what’s being cooked and you already know you’ve got everything you need!
To help get you started on your journey we have created two meal planner printables to help you out. One is a weekly planner so you can plan our your weekly menu and the second is to post your weekly menu for your family. Grab them now for free below!