Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Meal Planning 101

Okay, so I'd like to start off by saying that I am no pro at this. This is my first rodeo when it comes to Meal Planning and saving money on groceries. This post will be more or less sharing my process and tips; in hopes it may inspire you to cook more, eat out less, and save some money.

We budget for everything in our house, (well, I budget and just tell The Man about it); and for groceries I budget $100/week. At the beginning of our House Life journey I price matched like a fiend! But would still blow my budget out of the water every single week. I was spending almost double my allotted funds each week. Here's why: I would literally buy 20 bags of something because they were marked down to $1. We weren't staying on budget or saving because I was buying more than we could eat, it would go bad, and then we were just throwing it all away. I should have just taken $20 and put it in the trash.

Tip #1: Price match if you can on items you need, but don't go crazy! Keep an eye on expiration dates and only buy what you know your family can use up before you have to throw it away.

I am extremely lazy and unmotivated the majority of the time. I'd say 92% of the time I am a firm believer in "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow." Back at the beginning of House Life I didn't meal plan. I bought whatever was on sale to fill our cupboards, and then had to come up with meal ideas daily with the mishmash of products I had bought. At 7AM when I am leaving for work, I'm still trying to wake up; I'm not thinking about dinner.

Therefore, after work nothing would be defrosted, I'd have no motivation to put a meal together; thus, we ate out a lot. I was throwing away money on "deal", blowing the grocery budget, and then not eating the food and spending more money on takeout. You'd think I'd realize my mistakes, but it took me quite some time before I did.

Tip #2: Have an arsenal of go-to dishes that you always have the ingredients for. Therefore, in a pinch you have something to fall back on. My "fallback" meal is chicken caesar salad wraps - I 100% of the time have the ingredients for this dish.

At this point, I was starting to see the error in my ways and a conversation with one of my best girlfriends really hit me. She is a single mother of 2 adorable boys, and she spends $60-$80 a week on groceries. Her secret - plan out everything you need for every meal and ONLY buy what you absolutely need to fulfill that plan. Throw in some price matching and coupons and you are golden. Honestly, when she told me this it was like the clouds opened, and birds sang.

Tip #3: Do not be embarrassed to price match and use coupons. I don't get why others look down on it or put up a fuss when they are in line behind someone who does this. It's saving you money! Money that could be used for other things. No word of a lie, I had a transaction once where I price matched EVERY SINGLE item and saved close to $50 on my bill.

Tip #4: If you are price matching a lot of items I find it a common courtesy to let the person who gets in line behind you know. Especially, if they only have a few items.

So after much trial and error I've finally found a plan that works for me. I stay within budget, cook more, eat healthier, and am more motivated.
Step 1 - Print out a calendar for the month. I use this super cute free printable from Blooming Homestead.

Step 2 - Write in all the days or meals you know you don't have to cook. I find it less daunting to see less than 30 dinners to plan.
Step 3 - Decide your range. Either meal plan one week at a time, or for the entire month. I personally meal plan by the week. I find it easier to make the most of deals and ads.

Step 4 - Pick your grocery day. A big money saving tip - only go shopping once a week. Multiple trips to the store will result in a higher overall bill.

Step 5 - Pick you recipes. I pull from Pinterest, cookbooks, and family favourites. When I plan for a week I pick 6 recipes with one Date Night, or eat out day. It's nice to give yourself a break once a week.
Step 6 - Arrange your recipes based on schedule and protein. I.e. don't have chicken 3 days in a row, break it up. Also, don't put a two hour, complex recipe on a day you only have 30 minutes.

Step 7 - Make your shopping list. I use the following type of setup. Go through each recipe and meal idea and write down all of the ingredients you need to buy. Remember to take stock of what you already have on hand. Shop that pantry!
Step 8 - Once you've determined your meal plan items, determine you "Other" items. For us, it's what items do we need for lunches, breakfast on the weekend, snacks, drinks, etc. I will also keep track of household items and Costco items on a separate list.

Step 9 - Take your list and check out the weekly ads. I shop at Walmart, so most of the time they are the lowest price. I do still find some great price matching deals at other stores though. Make price matching easy by using Apps like Reebee or Flipp. You can simply click the items you want, and they will be added to a "shopping list" that you can easily pull up at the cash register. No more carrying around ads.
Pick your ad, pick your deal, price match away!!!
Step 10 - Look for coupons online, if you want to. I don't do this often, but I will depending on the items I am looking for. Just Google - Canadian Coupons and a plethora of sites will come up.

Step 11 - Go shopping! But, stick to you list! If it isn't on your list you aren't allowed to buy it. By staying disciplined I am able to stick to my budget.
Meal Planning gets messy. I constantly move meals around!
And that's it! It seems like a lot, I know, but once you find your rhythm, trust me it takes barely anytime. At most this whole process now takes me an hour. Since I started following this I enjoy cooking, grocery shopping, and House Life much more!

Do you have any Meal Planning or money saving tips? Leave them below!


  1. Great tips... you are certainly better at this than I am!!

  2. This is something we try to do, but always fail and end up winging it last minute all the time. :-/

  3. Great post - also, planning a weekend day to get fresh local fruits and veg from the farmers' markets is a good way to save some cash (plus a great way to support local businesses and get outside) !

  4. Looks great, love this sharing so much, thanks!


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