Simple, Healthy, Realistic, and Budget-Friendly Me...

Simple, Healthy, Realistic, and Budget-Friendly Meal Planning for the Busy Mom

Guest post: Kristi from Klover House

Meal planning.

Do those two words make you want to close the pantry and call for delivery?

Have you found yourself feeling desperate or frustrated when it’s almost time to have dinner on the table?

Do you stare at your pantry wondering how in the world you’re going to use the randomness in front of you to make something that everyone would actually eat?

Does trying to bribe the toddler attached to your leg with another bowl of cold cereal while you attempt to cook make you want to order pizza for the third time in two weeks?

You, too?

I have talked with so many moms over the past few months. Over and over again I hear the same thing. Meal planning doesn’t work for them but they are desperate for a plan of action.

I used to be in that camp too! With my planners, whiteboards, calendars, cookbooks, and lists everywhere.

I found myself throwing away food way too often, erasing and rewriting my plan over and over again, and abandoning my plans month after month. It left me so frustrated. We were wasting money, and I was stressing out daily.

You don’t need all of those bells and whistles! This method has saved my sanity and my budget. I am so happy to share it with all of you.

The Simple Meal Planning System that WILL Change Your Life

To follow my process, simply…

1 – Evaluate what you already have.

Every two weeks, I quickly take a look at three areas of our Kitchen – the pantry, the refrigerator {which includes the freezer}, and my baking supply closet. While I used to go once a month, adding more children meant more trips to the store. For us, going every pay day makes the most sense and works well with our budget.

What we have on hand inspires and drives the next list of meals. For example, if I have Red Hot sauce, chicken, buns, and leftover fruit salad from the previous day, I’ll plan for buffalo chicken sandwiches and fruit salad on “grocery day”, so I’m able to plan ahead even when the inventory seems impossibly low.

Sometimes, we’ll just simply use that day as our “Order Pizza” day to avoid the scramble after a long day of shopping with my four little ones.

2 – Draft your two-columned list. (See photo below.)

On the lefthand side, I have the day/date. On the righthand side, I have my list of 18-22 meals usually. I shop every two weeks, typically, so having a few extra options on my list gives me the flexibility to change my mind or roll meals over to the next list. (I save all of my previous lists as inspiration, and I also rely on Pinterest, other bloggers’ recommendations, my favorite cookbook, and a catalog of longstanding family-favorite recipes.

My list always looks like this: (A printable version coming soon)

Meal Planning List

3 – Prepare to grocery shop.

Using my list of possible meals as a guide, I create my grocery list based off of what I already have and what I still need. I create my list using meals that are versatile and that can compliment one another in the event that there are leftovers.

For example, if steak and mashed potatoes is an item and fajitas is an item, I will plan to use my leftover steak as my fajita meat that week. By using leftovers effectively and creatively, my family doesn’t get bored with what I am serving them, and I am almost never wasting food. If I make spaghetti and meatballs, I’ll leave a large portion of meatballs plain to be thrown into wedding soup or meatball subs that week. By planning meals in this way, you are saving time, money and sanity.

Trust me.

4 – Keep it consistent and basic.

I keep my list simple. I don’t go into great detail for multiple reasons. I’ll write grilled chicken. It may end up being a pasta dish paired with french green beans and garlic lemon butter sauce, or it could become chicken fajitas. Fruits and fresh and frozen vegetables are staples in our house. The day before or the morning of, I will make a more detailed decision on the dish, depending on what I have left and its state of freshness.

I love this system, because it is so easy to take a quick glance and create a plan for each day. If I open my refrigerator and see that the strawberries won’t last much longer, I’ll choose that night for a chicken and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing. I may even have my husband grill a double batch of chicken and plan to use it later in the week. Work and plan smarter, not harder.

5 – Keep track of meals prepared using the simple (Kindergarten-simple) number system.

If chicken parmesan is #7, and I am making it on November 8th, I simply write #7 next to November 8th, and I cross it off the list on the righthand side. I know that I am taking a meal to a family with a new baby on November 12th, and stuffed chicken breasts seems like a good choice for that, so I will make it for us as well. By coordinating our inventory, what we like, our budget, and plans, I can easily make a realistic meal plan that spans each two-week timeframe.

6 – Include “the usuals” and the special events.

We have a pizza night, an eat out night, and a date night scheduled on each plan. We don’t get to have those consistently, but that doesn’t keep me from planning for them. Also on my meal plan, I assign other dinner events their own number. Birthday parties held at dinner time, get togethers with friends, all gatherings held at dinner time are assigned their own number.

Using my list in conjunction with my monthly planner/calendar helps me in making the best possible plan for our family. By using this method, no longer do I find myself standing at the pantry door hoping that items will jump out and start making themselves because I don’t know where to start. Flexibility and simplicity makes this technique ideal for our family and I think you’ll find it will work for your family too.

7 – Keep your lists.

I save all of my previous lists – both paper and an electronic copy. This allows me to create a library of meals that makes planning for the next two weeks of meals easy. You can do this with a binder, an envelope, or simply by tucking them in your cookbook. I also take a picture of my lists so that I can reference them quickly on my phone while I’m grocery shopping or if I lose my paper list.

Again, work smarter not harder, and you’ll never ask “What’s for Dinner?” again!

Meal Planning Ideas

Chicken Recipe Ideas

Gluten and Dairy Free Meal Plan FB

Meal Planning EssentialsThis meal planning bundle will help you take back control of your Kitchen. You’ll know exactly what is in your pantry and freezer, as well as what you need to buy for the week to stick to your budget.

If you’d like to see more of my plans, visit me on Instagram @kristi_kloverhouse. I’d love to see you over on my Facebook page too! It is my hope that this system helps you to make the most of your budget and your groceries, while giving you the inspiration and freedom to create delicious, healthy and affordable meals for the people you love without frying your brain cells in the process!
Kristi signature

Kristi is a former elementary teacher and ministry school graduate turned SAHM mom to four spunky blondies (and one sweet Heaven Baby). She writes about faith, family, food, and occasionally, random diy projects, if she can convince #mrkloverhouse to surrender his better judgement to her eclectic whimsy. She is also the owner/designer behind Eden Gray Clothing. Babies, budgets, and beautiful things are her passion. Join the Klover House family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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