Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Part 3

Welcome to the final post of Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families. If you have not read part 1 or part 2, please start there. No one likes to start school already owing homework! This part will focus on meal planning on a budget. So get ready meal planning mommies….we are going to have you saving money and time by meal planning today!

meal planning. saving money, large families, big families, saving time
Meal planning for busy moms with large families- made easy!
Where we left off…..

Your job was to have a family meeting and decide some of your family favorites. No meals were to be left out, including snacks. Snacks are important because, even if they are small, they can be total budget busters! We also decided collectively that glitter was not to be included, much to the chagrin of my youngest girl.

Where do I start meal planning?

Well, technically, you already started. By creating a list of your family’s meals, you have a visual of what you like. Now we are going to fill in any empty slots.

Are there any recipes that you would like to introduce? If your family likes breaded chicken, can you top it with some tomato sauce and mozzarella, and throw it over pasta? Or if your family really loves lasagna but you think it is too time consuming, can you try a skillet version? (I think that I may be in the mood for some Italian!)

Making a list of your family’s favorite meals was the beginning. Now, look through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry.

What meals do you already have most of the ingredients for? What family staples are you missing? Are there any meals that you can make without grocery shopping?

Why is this a good idea? you ask. Well, let me count the ways….

  1. It saves you money. Obviously a win!
  2. It saves you time. If you already have the ingredients you don’t have to spend the time going to the store. Also a win!
  3. It saves your sanity. Duh! Not spending money and avoiding the grocery store. Hat-trick for the win!
  4. If you already have the ingredients handy, it is most likely because all those people in your house eat them!
Meal planning must- make a list of family favorites to see what ingredients you already have on hand. This will save you time and money!
Making a list of family favorite dinners will save you time and money.
I’m started! What’s next in meal planning?

Now, look at those family favorites. (If you struggled with creating a list, check out my Pinterest board for large families here .) What ingredients are you missing? Are they feasible for your budget? What do you have room for? What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)?

Yeah, I know I promised baby steps. And easy. Now it may seem like I am asking you for a whole resume. I’m really not.

YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!

But let’s take this one step at a time.

What ingredients are you missing for your favorite meals?

Now, when I first started I noticed I had a lot of potatoes, pasta, and rice. Yes, I have a carb problem. I like potatoes (except sweet potatoes) any which way you can make them. Pasta- well, my Italian roots are strong. And rice, rice can be enhanced by so many things!

I also had some chicken thighs in my freezer because anytime my local grocery store has buy one get one, we cook one and put one up (if you don’t like thighs I will give you some amaaaaazing and easy recipes), a couple packages of Italian sausage, and various frozen veggies (if we can’t buy fresh we buy frozen-in bulk of course).

Dinner

I had most of the ingredients for three of our favorite meals- chicken tacos (only missing sour cream), chicken and noodles, and spaghetti and sausage. But one thing that you definitely want to consider is which foods were going to spoil first. We needed to probably incorporate the potatoes into some meals before the end of the week. So I switched spaghetti to Italian sausage, potatoes, and peppers (a twist on my amazing sausage recipe).

Lunch

Dinner for three nights was essentially covered. Now onto lunch. I like to start with dinner because I often take leftovers with me for my lunch. Our kids prefer peanut butter and strawberry jelly (needed more bread), chips, juice, some type of fruit (we buy whatever is on sale and had a whole bag of apples), and fruit snacks. I planned on leftovers and my hubby decided he was craving tuna sandwiches. Not too shabby!

Breakfast

Breakfast gets interesting. Three out of five kids eat breakfast at school. My husband enjoys eggs (needed) and some type of breakfast meat (sausage patties were on sale that week). The younger kids rotate between cereal and eggs. I, however, am not a big breakfast person so I change up what I eat and try to incorporate protein. That week I had refried beans in the pantry so I decided on bean and cheese burritos (needed cheese).

Snacks

Snacks! Can’t forget them. Looking at my list I decided on cheese and crackers and apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Easy, peasy.

Other

We can’t forget other things that may be essential to your week. This can include drinks (we always need milk), condiments (somehow we also always need ketchup and olive oil), or treats. No one said meal planning on a budget required you to take away the sweets!

Meal planning for busy mommies must- plan for all meals, including snacks.
Make sure to plan all of your meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!
Summing up my meal planning.

Let’s check if I checked all of the questions.

What ingredients are you missing? Listed. Check!

Are they feasible for your budget? This time absolutely was. Check!

What do you have room for? Everything on my list AND more! But instead of wasting part of my budget on things I had room for but did not need, I reserved that part of my budget for the next grocery trip (next time I was going to need some meat). Check!

What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)? I was planning for three days. I have found meal planning for three or four days at a time works best for my family, so- check! (If you plan on doing it once a week, choose a predetermined date to plan for the following week.)

And voila! We are meal planning on budget like pros. If you have any questions leave them here in the comments. Also, leave some of your suggestions. Have a favorite meal? Definitely leave that! I am always looking for new recipes.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 2)

Welcome back! If you haven’t read Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy (Part 1), please start there first. To recap very quickly, we acknowledged that sometimes we moms are a LITTLE bit busy (enter sarcastic voice here), and that sometimes the term “meal planning” gets a bad rep.

meal planning, large families, big families, part 2, saving money, saving time, Momma Making Moves
Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Part 2

But we also agreed that we don’t know what works until we try. Then, I explained why I tried (and how I failed at) meal planning. I did, however, find a way to successfully begin meal planning for my family- saving me money, time, and more than a little bit of sanity. I explained all this and all you had to do was commit to trying something new.

Well, yesterday I did all the work. Today, you get to do some work.

What is meal planning?

Simply speaking, meal planning is deciding what you are going to eat. See! Not scary at all! We do this every day for every meal. Only, with meal planning you are not waiting until you are hungry. You are thinking about it at a predetermined date (more about this later), and considering every meal- not just what you are craving for that moment.

It does NOT have to be super specific, though. This was where I made my first mistake. Obviously some details are necessary- “Dinner” written on a scrap piece of paper does not constitute meal planning. However, “chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggie” on a piece of paper pinned to the fridge would suffice if you have various veggies available at home and a cupboard full of spices.

I am one of those people that may come home after work and not want Italian chicken. Or, perhaps I have heartburn (no, no more babies!) and the thought of Cajun chicken makes me want to die. As long as I have other spices and staples in my pantry, it will be okay! I feel like I need to say this because these exact situations helped me be discouraged with my meal planning at first. I don’t want this to happen to you.

However, if you need that type of structure- do what is right for you! Meal planning can be as rigid or flexible as your family needs it to be. I don’t care if you need to measure out how much of protein each person is getting to the ounce! Do what works for you!

Keeping a stocked spice cabinet enables you to change your menu to suit your mood.
If you have a stocked spice cabinet you can always vary your meal plans to suit your mood.
What is my next step?

If you have a significant other, discuss with them how long you plan on meal planning for. This is actually really important, and if no one else tells you that there is NO correct answer, I will! This was seriously crucial to my family’s success.

While everyone told me that I need to plan for at least a week, we struggled. We do have a deep freezer in the garage, but we only have one fridge. Sometimes, one fridge cannot hold all of our necessary items (such as milk) for the week. It made me feel slightly discouraged. Then I talked to a friend. After listening to my vent, she asked me why I wasn’t satisfied that we were at least planning for a couple of days.

Were we still not saving time? Most importantly, were we not still saving money? The answer was yes to both questions. I kinda felt a little bit foolish.

The research that I was reading did not take in to account the size of my family. I think that this may be a trending situation for larger families. We may have a lot of mouths, but that does not mean that we have a lot of space. (Spoiler alert- we shop for staples once a week, and necessities as needed- usually twice a week.)

 

Okay….now what?

Have a family meeting. This decision is not going to just affect you. In order for meal planning to actually be effective for your family, your family needs to be involved. We started the initial conversation without the kiddos, and then brought them in. Our first question was, “What are your favorite dinners?” and the conversation went a little like this-

Kid 1, teenage boy- “Meat. And shrimp. And seafood.”

Kid 2, preteen girl- “Everything that he did not say.”

Kid 3, 5 yo girl- “Tacos and spaghetti. Can I have both for my birthday?”

Kid 4- 4 yo girl- “Glitter. No wait, red glitter!”

Kid 5- 2 yo boy- “No!”

Okay, it is not verbatim, but it is pretty damn close. The last three kids are actually verbatim, hence the reason why my daughter is not allowed anywhere near glitter without my supervision.

But you get my point. If you do not take into account what your family actually likes to eat, you are shooting down the possibility of successfully meal planning before you even get started.

Don’t stop at dinner, though. In order to effectively avoid the grocery store for any amount of time you need to consider alllll of your meals. This includes snacks for every member of your family.

Including snacks in your meal plan ensures you are able to stay on track.
Not including snacks in your meal plans can throw the whole plan off.
What is my homework for now?

Okay, maybe that wasn’t your next question. But it does not excuse you from your homework. Make a running list of all your family’s favorite meals- breakfast, lunch dinner, AND snacks. Don’t worry about ingredients or planning. This is baby steps people! If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest board on meals for large families.

Don’t forget to ask any questions in the comment section and go to Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Made Easy Part 3.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 1)

How many times have you heard, “Ugh! Chicken again?” Or, how many times have you received a text from your other half asking you what you had planned for dinner, even if it was their turn to handle it? (Don’t worry, we’ll save that convo for a whole other post!) Well, let me tell you that there really is a way to have these annoying interactions happen less frequently- and you have heard of it before! Meal planning!

Meal planning for busy moms with big families made easy!
It really can be easy to plan meals for big families!
Why should you try meal planning?

I know, right now you may be rolling your eyes at me. Believe me, I get it. Meal planning for busy moms is hard enough. Throw into the mix that we have multiple mouths to feed, all with their own little quirks and opinions, and the phrase “meal planning” almost seems like a fantasy. At one point, the only way that I was meal planning was remembering which pizza place we ordered from last. It was expensive, unhealthy, and honestly time consuming in it’s own right.

Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

So instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying you are too busy for meal planning, take a breath and think about it this way- if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! At least you tried! But, in all honesty, I am sure that I can help you (and that you can help me). And to make it easy, we are going to do this in baby steps! Tonight, the only thing that you need to commit to is telling yourself that you are going to try something new.

Why did I try (and fail at) meal planning?

Truthfully, I did not plan on meal planning. It was kind of a circumstance of necessity. When budgeting for our meals, we figured out that buying most of our grocery list was cheaper when bought in bulk. At first, I promised myself that I was going to take what was needed for the meal I had planned for that evening out, and bag the rest of it up. I pictured myself creating this terrific organization method of frozen bags and we would just be the happiest family ever!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Number one- I am kind of busy. I didn’t like taking my precious time separating the meat and veggies into various piles. Number two- I forgot to buy bags. Then once I finally remembered to buy bags, I didn’t label my bags (nor did I organize them) and all of my bags became a frozen mountain of meat in the back of my freezer.

Not effective at all.

But, our grocery fund really could be stretched much farther if we JUST FIGURED IT OUT. So I committed to trying again.

It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
What FINALLY worked for us?

We gave up. No, seriously. We gave up trying to do it the only way that I knew how and decided to try what would work for our family. Our family does not mind eating chicken three nights in a row, or various hamburger recipes through the week. So, after that simple of a solution, we had our own meal planning start.

And when you read part 2 of this mini series you will find your start too! Check back in a couple of days to take your next step. If you are needing a meal to feed your big family tonight, check out my AWESOME sausage recipe! Or check out my Pinterest board for recipes for big families.