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  • Writer's pictureSaresha Zentner

Meal Planning 101: How My Family Plans our Meals and Grocery Trip for the Week.

Do you go over your grocery budget again and again?

Does food go bad in your fridge or pantry?

Do you eat out more than your budget allows?

Let me take you back to our (my husband and I’s) first year of marriage. Also, it was my first year of teaching. We would grocery shop on the weekends, often without a list. We’d stroll through the aisles grabbing whatever looked good and occasionally I’d have a few meal ideas in my head. Before we knew it, we would have $150 of groceries in our cart. When we would get home from work, we would struggle to figure out what to make for dinner. By time we would decide, it was too late for most meals (needed to defrost something or start it earlier in the day) or we would not have the energy to cook. I bet we ate out 3 nights a week.

After one year of living like that, I knew we needed a way to plan out our meals. I started out with blank cards that I used to collect my favorite recipes on. I would write the title of the recipe on the outside and on the inside was the list of ingredients and directions.

I dedicated the side of our cupboard to display our meal plan for the week. I put up stickers to correspond to the days of the week. I used clips with Velcro attached to hang the cards on our cupboard.

Our old menu set up. The stickers were coming loose and I was ready for a recipe card upgrade.

I store my extra recipe cards in a recipe box. I found mine on Amazon. It is my favorite!

This system has worked great for 5 years, but my stickers were coming off the cupboard and we were ready for a small change.

Now, my meal cards belong on my new chalkboard!

You can find the chalkboard on Amazon. It's magnetic!

I found the clips and magnetic gold letters at Hobby Lobby!

You can download my recipe card template from my FREE RESOURCES. Subscribe to my blog to get the password!

The result has been awesome. This has worked so well for me and my family! Here are the top 4 reasons we LOVE our meal planning system:

1. Grocery Budget

We noticed a huge decrease in our weekly grocery budget when we started using this meal planning system. We only buy the ingredients we will need for the recipes planned for that week. Sometimes, we will check the grocery ads to check for sales. If there are sales on certain items, we try to incorporate recipes with those ingredients that week.

Lately we have been loving Walmart Pickup. My husband and I both have the app and add items to our cart throughout the week. If one of us notices the mayo is low – we put it on the list. It’s so nice to have it all on one place and ready to go. Then, when we plan our meals, we add the ingredients for our meals and then are ready to schedule it.

If you have never tried Walmart Pickup, you need to! It is so easy to add to your cart throughout the week, add meal ingredients, and then schedule a time. When your order is ready, they text you and then when you get to the store you check in on the app. They bring you your groceries and even load them into your vehicle. It is essential for the season of life we are in! If you want to try it out, I have a $10 off coupon for your first order! You will not regret it!

2. Meals are Planned

This may seem obvious, but having the meals planned has been such a huge relief off of my husband and I. We don’t have to worry all day about what’s for supper each night. We don’t have to argue or try to figure out what ingredients we have or don’t have for certain recipes.

We plan our meals based off of our schedule. Meetings and Speech Therapy for our son until 6:00? Pizza that night sounds great. Do I have more time on Thursdays? Maybe I’ll make pasta that night. Fridays are crazy? Maybe plan a crockpot meal that day.

3. Less Grocery Store Visits

Once my husband and I choose the recipe cards for the week, we make our list (lately on Walmart Pickup – we are loving it!) right away using the ingredients list from the recipe cards to make sure we don’t forget anything. We have saved ourselves a lot of extra trips to the store by looking in our cupboards/fridge and seeing what we already have or are low on BEFORE we go to the store. We add those items to our Walmart Pickup app throughout the week.

4. We Eat Out Less

By having our meals planned out, we definitely eat out less. We do plan nights where we eat out, but for the most part we stick to our meal plan and eat at home.

I’m sharing because I believe in this. By meal planning, you’re setting your family up for success. Here are some FAQs about my meal planning system. . .

Q: What happens if we don’t want to eat what’s planned on a certain night?

A: This has definitely happened to us before. We have two options we consider before jumping to “let’s eat out!”. First, we look if we can swap a meal from another night. Second, we ask ourselves if a quick, easy meal will work that night (leftovers, grilled cheese, pizza, etc.). If neither of those sounds good, we might eat out. That does not happen often, but hey, sometimes Taco Bell is what you need on a Tuesday night. Ha! Sometimes, we stick to our budget and meal plan. It’s good to talk through those situations beforehand with your spouse so you know when you’re willing to stray from the plan.

Q: Seems like too much work to make the meal cards. How do you do it?

A: It does seem overwhelming. I didn’t do it all at once. Start slow. Every time you make a recipe, make a meal card for it. Before you know it, you’ll have one for all of the meals you make. Find a place to display them. It doesn’t need to be stickers and clips like mine – magnets on the fridge would work too!

Q: Where do you find your recipes?

A: All over. Some are passed on from my mom and grandma. Some are from friends. Some I created. Some are from Pinterest, of course! Click here to follow me on Pinterest!

I’m currently in the process of typing out my meal cards and printing them. I’m ready for a more uniform look and I’m a sucker for cute fonts. I’m working on transferring my display to this new chalkboard I got for Christmas.

Are you ready to take charge of your grocery bill and meal plan for the week? What questions do you have? Comment here or hop over to my Instagram and let me know your thoughts!

Are you wanting to shop any of the items I used to make my chalkboard menu board? Check out my Meal Plan idea list here!

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