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!
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….
- It saves you money. Obviously a win!
- 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!
- It saves your sanity. Duh! Not spending money and avoiding the grocery store. Hat-trick for the win!
- If you already have the ingredients handy, it is most likely because all those people in your house eat them!
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).
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).
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 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! Can’t forget them. Looking at my list I decided on cheese and crackers and apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Easy, peasy.
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!
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.