Do you want to find more time and money? Meal planning can do both. This is a simple guide to meal planning for beginners on a budget.
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I see meal planning as the basics and more advanced. The basic meal planning guide is what we’re going to learn how to do. The advanced meal planning takes this same beginner method but incorporates sales at the grocery store and other meal prep tips. This takes more time to review the sale papers and plans your menu around what is on sale that week. Another layer is what coupons you have available. While advanced meal planning is great, it takes more time and if you’re busy, you may not be able to allocate that much time to it.
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List of Meals Ideas
Make a list of meals your family likes. After all, if they don’t like what you’re going to cook, you’ll be wasting time making it and money if they don’t eat it.
This article has meal prep ideas using ground meat that you can read here. It not only gives you ideas on what can be cooked with ground meat but also more time-saving tips.
Calendar Events to Plan Around
Look at your calendar to determine how much time you will have to cook and eat each night.
Things that impact what you will cook each night include these among many other things:
Are you working late?
Does anyone have extracurricular activities such as dance, karate, etc.?
Is there a meeting you have to attend?
Do you have company coming to eat?
Are you going somewhere to eat?
This, in turn, will help you figure out what meal would be best for that night.
Start with a weekly meal plan because schedules can change and this impacts what you have time to cook for your night meal. If your schedule is pretty consistent from week to week, you can certainly incorporate more days or weeks.
Great Tools for Meal Planning for Beginners on a Budget
If you have a slow cooker, you can prep everything ahead of time and the meal can be ready at a certain time.
I love my slow cooker. There are some meals that are better than others in it, so you just need to see what you prefer. One of our favorites is a pulled pork recipe. It is simple and inexpensive.
I have a slow cooker like this. I love that you can take out the insert to wash. Another plus is that you can buy special cooking bags that help with clean up as well. When buying these liners, be careful you get the right size for your slow cooker. I also like the oval shape as more meats fit it in better than sometimes the round, depending on the meat.
There are slow cookers that will be cheaper, but beware because they are not as easy to clean. Some slow cookers don’t have removal inserts to make cleaning up easier. Part of this whole process is to save time too which means clean up.
If you have an instant pot, this will cook things quickly to speed up the meal.
Another great tool is an Air Fryer. Find quick recipes with 7 Quick, Easy, and Cheap Air Fryer Chicken Recipes.
It’s time to put a grocery list together once you know what you want to cook this week. Check your recipes to see what ingredients you have on hand and what you need to buy.
One mistake I’ve make many times in the past, is I forget to include lunches and breakfasts.
Benefits of Beginners Meal Planning
There are lots of benefits for the beginner’s meal planning system. While the advanced plan will save more money, it also takes more time to prepare.
We mentioned that planning meals saves time. It saves time by planning to go to the store fewer times. It is up to you how often you want to go. Meal planning can be done for a week, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.
I find planning for a week works best for our family, so I go to the store once a week. By not going multiple times to the store, it saves time. Limiting the times I go to the store also limits the number of extra items I tend to pick up which ultimately saves money.
By having a plan to eat at home, it makes it less tempting to eat out at a restaurant. I love to eat out, but eating out more than I budgeted for, wrecks my budget quickly.
It saves time when you get home from work too if you know exactly what you’re going to cook that night. If something needs defrosting, you can plan ahead to do this. This additional planning the night before or in the morning is important so that the evenings cooking dinner will go smoother. Bonus points for any meal prep that can be done ahead of time like chopping onions up. This makes one less task to do when trying to get dinner on the table.
We post the weekly menu on the refrigerator. This means that everyone can just look to see what’s for dinner and not ask the “What’s for supper?” question as soon as you walk in the door from work.
Summing it Up – Save Time and Money
Meal planning saves time and money. Make a list of the meals your family loves to refer to. Coordinate your meals with what is going on with your calendar, make the grocery list, and then pick up what you need at the store. Things do and will get off course from time to time just due to “life”, but don’t give up. Try this guide to meal planning for beginners on a budget for a while and see your results.