The start of your meal planning should be you picking and deciding how many different dinners you will be making for that particular month. The way I go about it is usually every 3 or 4 days is leftover day. This day we eat up all the leftovers in the fridge. We usually only need 1 meal for this day because my husband also takes leftovers for lunch everyday. So that day we usually have a big breakfast so it can be a light leftover lunch then we finish off the rest of the leftovers at dinner. Then, nothing is going to waste. You are putting in a good chunk of your Saturday (or whatever day you cook, ours is a Saturday) to make these meals, you don’t want to be throwing them out. Out of a 30 day month, you would be having roughly 6-9 leftover days. That takes you down to needing about 20 family size meals that you need to prepare. The way we like to do it, is I usually make 2-3 of the same meal and spread it over the course of that month. I am only making 7-10 different meals. Now I know that sounds like a lot but because you are making multiple of the same it makes prep time fast and easy. Some might think “well I don’t want to eat lasagna every week” and if that is how your family is then ok, you might need to tweak your planning to accommodate! My kids and husband love lasagna (or anything I make really) so they eat it up! **Side note: you want to make sure your family knows why you are doing this. My kids know that we meal plan and budget so mom can stay home with them and go on school field trips and that sort of thing. It might be a hard adjustment at first but you need to (along with your family) look at the big picture and how worth it will all be in the end.**
So lasagna was my example for February. We did make up 3 lasagnas and had them once a week. But now that we are in March, they haven’t had it once; so planning April’s menu we will have that added back in again. You want to make sure you have enough variety in the meals that you make. Don’t make every month the same food because then you and your family will get bored with the dinners and you will fall off the meal planning and budgeting wagon. Don’t forget to shake things up. Example: one pan of the lasagna I turned into stuffed noodles and they thought it was the coolest thing and of course didn’t taste the same as lasagna (according to our daughter). LOL 🙂 Don’t be afraid to try new things, just because you are on a meal plan and budget doesn’t mean you cant enjoy all the good food that is out there!
Now, for picking our meals, I keep some of them basic and what we know we like but I will also hit up Pinterest for fun and different meal ideas. I try to make sure I pick meals that will freeze well. Some of them I make ahead of time; others, I put all the ingredients into a gallon size bag and just dump in it the crockpot in the morning. I LOVE dump meals!!! Dump meals are the way we made most of our soups this month. We did a deconstructed Italian wedding soup in March. For this, we did brown up the burger before we put it in the bag, so it already included the ground beef. We put the other ingredients in, let the burger cool, and added it too. Then laid the bag flat to push out the air, so it would stack nicely in the freezer. On the day we were having it,I brought the bag out, dumped it in the crockpot, added my chicken broth (we had coupons so I used store bought but bouillon and water will do just the same), then cooked it on low for 5 hours and BOOM! Dinner is done and ready whenever we all get home. Took me maybe 5 mins that morning to get everything going. Doing meal prep and crockpot meals seriously makes your life so much easier and stress-free (on this one topic of course. I mean, we are moms, our life is always filled with stress! LOL 🙂 )
Tune into 103 for our April Menu!