Realistic Meal Planning Advice: Without Over Spending
Having a full-time job, a blogging life and a family can lead to minimal time for making dinner. Meal planning is a time saver and a money saver. I am realistic and do not even attempt recipes I know will consume my evening, lead to more stress or cost more than eating out. Simple is key, unless I’m feeling courageous. I normally get this way a few times a month and toss in some new recipes.
Every week I meal plan. Meal planning saves me time and money. I finally got fed up with the infamous question, “What’s for dinner tonight”? My response always being, “I have no idea”. The constant forgetting to pull out meat. The whole family was eating like crap because of me. Meals were becoming an issue which led to unnecessary stress. So one day I put on my adulting pants and planned out our family meals for the week. It Worked! I was happy, the family knew what was going down for the week. So if they didn’t like what was about to be served they could fend for themselves.
I have been meal planning for years now. I go into the grocery store knowing what I need without getting frantic. Of course I come in with a list. I have an Amazon Echo in my kitchen. When an item comes to mind I just tell Alexa. Bonus: This way any time something runs out a family member can tell Alexa and she puts the item on my grocery list. Alexa is a valuable addition to our household. The kids love her, I love her!
I buy meat when on sale, not when needed. This way my freezer is always stocked with a meal. I take a peek in my freezer, see what I have available and plan what I am going to make for the week! Easy!
Nobody likes the same items week after week. I have a binder full of great recipes. Some recipes I printed off Pinterest or tore out of a magazine. A lot are simple ones I created after attempting more complex recipes. No need to go out and purchase an expensive cookbook when the options are endless online! When I started meal planning, the meals were not the best. I was also a new wife and cooking was not my specialty. You begin to learn tricks over time, so be patient if you’re a beginner home chef.
The Backup Meals:
Meal planning is great! Meal planning can go wrong. Things come up, meals do not turn out and of course meat doesn’t always thaw out. I always stock my household with backup plans. Grab and bake type meals. Examples: Frozen pizza, frozen ravioli, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese with tomato soup and the always popular breakfast for dinner!!!
A Peek at a Week:
Here is a peek at a past week of mine. I have also included each recipe I use. Some being WAY more intricate than others. I normally start the week off with a bang. By the end of the week my meals take 5 minutes. Once again this is realistic, I am not about to cook a 3 course meal on a Friday night. I am drained.
Monday: Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
- 4 Tilapia Fillets (I buy a big bag of frozen so I get 2 meals out of one bag, follow bag instructions for thawing out)
- Olive oil
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
- ¼ Teaspoon salt (optional)
- 2 Teaspoons Paprika
- Lemon wedges (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
- In a shallow bowl, mix together, Parmesan, paprika, parsley and salt.
- In another shallow bowl prep your fish by covering with olive oil
- Press olive oil covered Tilapia lightly into Parmesan mixture. Transfer to baking sheet
- Bake until fish is opaque in the thickest part, roughly 10-12 minutes, serve with lemon slices
Side Choices: Roasted veggies, steamed veggies, steamed rice
Tuesday: Easy Peasy Pot Roast
- 3 lb Roast
- Jack Daniels Marinade in a Bag (I use the Mesquite or the Steakhouse)
- 5 lb bag Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes washed and halved (Or whatever potatoes you prefer)
- 3 cups cut up carrots
- Place roast in the marinate bag, leave marinate over night in the fridge
- Dump roast and bag of marinade in crock pot
- Place potatoes and carrots on top of roast
- Cook on low for 7-8 hours
- Break apart roast, stir contents and cook for an additional 30 min (optional)
- 1 jar favorite spaghetti sauce (or make your own)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 box spaghetti
- Garlic Bread
- Brown beef in large pan
- Boil noodles per box instructions
- Pour sauce over browned beef
- Serve with garlic bread
Friday: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- 1 Pork Tenderloin
- 1 cup BBQ Sauce
- Place tenderloin in crock pot
- Pour BBQ over tenderloin
- Cook on high for 4 hours
- Shred Pork and serve on bun
*Quick Tip: Freeze leftovers
Side of choice: Fries or Tater-tots
I try to incorporate a pork or chicken night, a ground beef night, a beef night, a pasta night and a random (this being the fish or repeat meat). So I know what meats I am going to use and pick out recipes from there. I try not to pick recipes first. Choosing recipes based on what meat you have save you money. Otherwise you end up with an overload of meat in your freezer.
I find meal planning to be low stress and incredibly easy. I never make it hard on myself. Making extravagant meals is not on the table. I am a full-time working mom with a family to feed. If they want gourmet they are out of luck.
For more great tips on saving pennies check out How I Weaned Myself Off Money!
Thank you and happy budgeting!