Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How To Meal Plan

Now that I am getting into the system and the swing of my new shopping style I thought I would share how to meal plan.  I know many people say they aren't organized or they wish they could do that, but the reality is you can!  What you need is a calendar template like the one found HERE, a basic spreadsheet (I use Excel), and some recipes.  This year we are focusing on new and different meals so each day of the month I have a different menu item.  No repeats can be difficult, but with recipe sites like Allrecipes.com, foodgawker, food.com, and not to mention the billions of food blogs out there it is possible.  I have about 200 recipes saved in my favorites that I have collected over time to try, but never got to them.  With meal planning I just pull open my favorites bar and start clicking away at the ones I plan to make.  Here is my sneak peek for February which I have planned out and the shopping list.

Meal Plan Calendar

This is just the main dishes.  I have not added the sides yet, but we are only into the second week of January so I think I am doing pretty good so far ;)  Now that you have the recipes and the calendar you just need to fill in the blanks :)  To insert a link of a recipe from the web follow these steps:
Right click on the date you want to insert a link and choose hyperlink

Paste the web address in the address section and edit the name in the text display section if you would like

Pretty quick and easy, plus all the recipes will be right there when you are ready to make them.

The next part is the most time consuming part.  You have to look at each recipe and decide what you need to buy and how much of each item you will need.  I created my own spreadsheet in excel because I like the organization of creating my own spreadsheet to my liking, but if you don't want to create your own you can find grocery list templates online.  I have found two different kinds of templates the first lists the items for you check off and can be found HERE.  The second is more similar to mine.  It has boxes of the groups where you fill in the products by category.  You can find that template HERE.  The downfall to this one is that you would have to hand write each item.  That is why I chose to do mine in a spreadsheet form.  This way I can edit each cell, add more if I need, delete an item, and basically edit it to my needs.  This is my list for the entire month of February.  I save an exact copy, adjust quantities for what is needed the first week, and then print.  Then I go back to the original and adjust those quantities to what I will need for the next trip.  Below is an example of my entire February grocery list.

Grocery List
All you need is a system to get started and before you know it you will be organized!  You don't need to plan by the month like I do.  You could start planning weekly and setting a budget for the week.  It is much easier to plan a list when you have all the recipes laid out and set into place.  What's even better is you can just print the calendar and place it on the fridge...no more "mom, what's for dinner?" or "mom, what are you making?".  Before I finalize my meal plan I do go over it with my husband and oldest.  The three old, no, because we would be stuck eating hot dogs and chicken nuggets every night!  This keeps everyone involved and allows them to choose meals they would enjoy.

So have some fun.  Create a system for yourself and your family.  Make your life simpler and easier while saving money.  I can tell you for the past 9 days we have not thrown away one food item.  We are wasting less, eating better, and spending less money. 

Don't forget to find My Road to Savings on Facebook and Twitter to get all the tips and tricks on saving!

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