Saturday, January 7, 2012

Healthy on a Budget - Meal Planning

One of the best ways to make sure we eat healthy meals along with saving money is planning out our meals ahead of time.  Not only does it help with the craziness of the pre-dinner hour, but at the grocery store you will know what to buy (and what not to buy).  There are many ways to plan out your meals - one week at a time, two weeks, a whole month, using the sale ads at your local stores (more money savings), freezer cooking, etc.  There are even websites specifically for meal planning; Meals Matter is free, E-mealz has a cost of about $1.25/week, Food on the Table is free and there's an app for that, Nourished Kitchen provides Real Food meal plans for about $10/month, GNOWFGLINS is another website that provides Real Food meal plans for $15/month and there are many more meal planning options out there.  In addition to meal planning websites, many blogs (including this one) share their weekly menus for you to get ideas and recipes from.

Avoiding the recommendations of having themes or a regular schedule of meals such as Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. (because I didn't want to have the same meals all the time) ended up with me spending more time than necessary on my meal plans - always searching for new recipes to try.  Finally as of 2012 I have decided to try a "schedule/themed" meal plan style in hopes of streamlining the process. According to Simplicity Parenting it is also good for the children to have some sense of "routine" - for example, "on Sundays we always have pizza for dinner." I'm even trying to plan for two weeks at a time, in hopes of saving even more money (and time with less trips to the store).  I'll let you know how it goes.  Here is my plan:
  • Monday = Noodles
  • Tuesday = Beans
  • Wednesday = Meat
  • Thursday = Rice or Salad
  • Friday = Seafood
  • Saturday = Soup
  • Sunday = Pizza
I'm feeling pretty good about my plan, I think it will still allow me to have freedom in my planning (and our meals), but it should save me lots of time and I'm guessing money too.  Although I may end up changing my plan when summer rolls around - when I do much less cooking at the stove and more grilling.  Oh and it may look like we only eat Meat once a week, but that isn't the case, that just happens to be my chance to roast a whole chicken, grill fajitas, make a pot roast or something like that.  Breakfast isn't always as set in stone around here - it is more fluid with many things on hand and often a decision made the night before so that I can get the sourdough pancake sponge going, soaking oats  or prep a breakfast strata.  We rarely eat boxed cereal, the closest we come is homemade granola.

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