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Menu planning is a great way to save money on your food budget as well as saving your sanity when it 5pm hits and you’re scrambling to find something to make. For many people beginning to menu plan feels overwhelming and they’re unsure where to begin – so they don’t. If you’re one of those people these suggestions will have you in menu planning bliss! Grab a notebook, set aside 15 minutes right now, and follow these simple steps:
- Get out a piece of paper. Divide it in half. On one side write down as many favorite dishes that you can think of – these can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or side dishes. Don’t censor yourself just write whatever you can think of, even if it’s simple food like hot dogs.
- Now, take 4 different colored highlighters, and go through your list, assigning a different color for each type of food. This will help you visually see your options without reading and re-reading through your list.
- Lastly take another piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left side label the days and leave 3 spaces below (for 3 daily meals), and then list the next day. Start by writing in any meals that you know you won’t be home; you have a meeting or dinner with a friend etc. Fill in your meal ideas onto each of the days (first line for breakfast, second for lunch, third for dinner). Keep one day for leftovers to clean-out the fridge, and don’t be afraid to list dinner leftovers for the following days’ lunch. It’s helpful to do this with a calendar nearby so you know which days or nights are busy for you – opt for easy meals those days.
On the right side of the paper, list the ingredients you don’t have on hand. This method allows you to see what you’re making and what you need in the same place. How many times have you gone to the store only to wonder why something was on your list, not gotten it, and once you’re home remember why it was there in the first place? This system helps avoid that!
Don’t feel like you’re locked into these meal choices. This is a living list, you can move things around if you need to. Once you feel comfortable and get into the habit of planning your meals you can start experimenting by adding in new dishes you would like to try to make. Meal planning can help you save a lot of money by eliminating waste and helping you to purchase only what you need. You can save additional money by matching up sale items to your meal plan, or planning what you make around what’s on sale at your favorite market.