Moneywise MoM: Meal Planning

Hi! I’m Gina, a mom of three in the Washington DC area, and I’m excited to share with you my strategies for saving money on groceries and household expenses each month in my Moneywise MoM post.

My blog, MoneywiseMoms, was inspired by our move across the country with 3-month-old identical twins and a 2 1/2 year-old to my husband’s new job at 40% of the salary. Yikes! Suddenly I was stretching fewer dollars with more mouths to feed. Now my girls are 3 1/2 years old, and my son just turned 6, and I have several systems in place that have helped us not just survive, but thrive.

Back when I was on bedrest with my twins (they had a mild case of TTTS), we were eating lots of takeout and fast food, receiving meals from our local MOMS Club, and just getting by. I spent a lot of time thinking about cooking and how I would do it once the twins arrived. Sitting down to meals together became much more important, and my husband and I agreed to make it a priority once we were a family of five. My obsession with Meal Planning begun, and it is now one of my top strategies for saving money as well as eating healthier and spending time together as a family.

When you plan your family’s meals, you avoid impulse buying at the grocery store and spend less time in the store–which is a plus whether or not you’ve brought the kids with you. By taking the time once a week to loosely plan, you save time not only during shopping but also during the day. How many hours have you spent worrying or wondering what to prepare that night? Keep a list on your fridge and it’s done for you. Another benefit I’ve found is that my husband is able to prep dinner if I’m sick or not home at dinnertime. Once your kids are older, they’ll be able to help too.

If you’ve never tried meal planning before, try this:

  1. Brainstorm the meals you make regularly–spaghetti, tacos, mac & cheese, etc.–and put them on a list. As you get more experienced, you can plan using your grocery store’s sales ad or try new recipes.
  2. Look at your calendar for the week ahead; if there’s a busy or late night expected, plan something super-easy (frozen pizza, leftovers, etc.).
  3. Make a grocery list based on the dinners you’ve planned. Check your pantry/cupboards first so you don’t buy something you already have.
  4. Shop ONCE at the beginning of the week; the goal is to purchase everything you need and avoid multiple trips to the store.
And a note: you don’t have to cook from scratch to take advantage of meal planning. The idea is just to plan ahead in order to save both time and money. Buying convenience foods (frozen dinners, rotisserie chicken, etc.) is still less expensive than restaurant food.


Have you tried meal planning? What are your tips for the beginners out there?

I hope you’ll stop by my blog to check out more strategies and tips. Have a great month!

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  1. Interesting, I am going to read your blog and am very interested. As we have gone from 1 kid and 2 incomes, to 3 kids and 1 income I am trying to find ways to cut my grocery bill. With my oldest just starting Kindergarten I have been trying to be better at meal planning and do fine my week less stressful since I have been doing that – interesting in learning more tips. Thanks!

  2. Your post is interesting and I need a lot of advices.

    Have a nice day and weekend.

  3. I'm going to head over to your blog later today when I have more computer time — thanks for the tips! I love the idea of meal planning and saving money. Cooking does not come naturally for me and takes a lot of effort, so anything to make it easier : ) I've also heard eZmeals has a good program online for (I think) only $15 every three months. Anyone try that?
    Thanks again, great post.

  4. thanks! i have 19 month old twins and maybe one on the way. im going to need all the planning i can get! we two are bad at any sort of planning.

  5. Great interview!!! I became a HUGE meal planner once my quads were born out of sheer necessity…no time for multiple trips to the store when you have multiples! I created a Master Grocery List (of the items we use all the time) with boxes where I can just ck off what we need that week. I have it split up by areas of the store & then each section has five blank spots for odds & ends. Sounds crazy but I find it really helps me to cut down on impulse buying!

  6. Great post!Haven't done that in forever! My husband would love me more!! I'll be over!

  7. I don't think I could function if I didn't meal plan. Some other tips I have…if you're new to meal planning, keep a running list of meals for the next week. I often think of a meal I want to make when I'm doing something else, but when I sit down to make a menu, I forget what I know how to cook. I also plan in leftovers. That is making more of one ingredient that I will then use in a later meal. It saves a lot of time to have a part of the meal prep already done. My last tip is to double anything you're making that can be frozen. It isn't any more difficult to make two and then you have meals in the freezer for the days when life gets too crazy.

  8. I totally agree with you! I started meal planning about 6 months ago and have saved myself a fortune! (I hook into a Monday Menu Planning meme each week on my recipe blog to help keep organized)

  9. you've inspired me! i need to start planning my meals….otherwise, we just eat out or eat sandwiches (i have 6 month old twin girls).

    my SIL just planned out meals for the next 6 months! does anyone else plan this far out?

  10. I plan out my meals using the weekly circulars. So, I look at what is on sale and then build my menu around that. Oftentimes I can get 2-3 meals out of something like a whole chicken, turkey breast, or a pork loin. I ONLY buy meat on sale. I also take advantage of 10-4-10 sales to stock up on staples, not specialty items.

    Oh, and CUT COUPONS. 🙂

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