More on Meal Planning

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Meal planning is really something that I enjoy. I also enjoy helping others learn how to do it. All my workshops end with a little mini session on meal planning. I posted a little bit about it in Couponing 101 but I wanted to expand a little here. Not all people plan their meals the same way; some people plan on a whim by choosing what their taste buds are craving, while others choose their meals based on sales. I teach people how to do the latter……shocking, right?

If you’re the typical family, you have several “go to” recipes that you use over and over. For those recipes, you’ll want to make sure you keep the ingredients in stock. For instance, if you have a great meatloaf recipe that you use over and over, then when the ingredients are on sale you might want to stockpile those items. That will allow you to make that specific recipe any time that you need to. Meatloaf ingredients are pretty easy to stockpile. J Go over your recipes frequently so you know the ingredients….then when your eye catches a sale, you’ll know that it’s really something you can use. My Mama makes a lot of the same things over and over – because my Daddy is a meat and potatoes kind of man. So, when something goes on sale, she knows to buy several because she’s going to use them. That really helps out with her meal planning. Can you tell I’ve learned from a pro? I’m really blessed to have such a great Mama. Although sometimes I’m sure she wonders about me, because I’m a rare breed. I’m not like a regular cook….I like to try millions of different recipes. Sure, I have several that I use a lot, but I also have 500 cookbooks – that’s a lot of different recipes y’all.

So, let’s pretend it’s Sunday. Sometimes I live in a world of pretend, so this is easy for me – come over to my side, it’s fun here. Sit down and look at your sale paper. If you’re loyal to one store, then look at that paper. If you’re just going where the sales are, then take a gander at all the grocery ads. For me, it’s easier if I make a list. So, I’ll look through the paper and write down what I know is a good price. I’ll scan over this list several times, and ideas start forming in my head. It’s a disease…..I store recipes in my head. Ya know, I even dream about them. Sometimes I wake up, and tell Barry what I was cooking in my sleep……Caramel Biscuits were born in my slumber.  Okay, so back to meal planning! If you can’t think of what you can cook from what’s on sale, then take a look through one or two of your favorite cookbooks. Recipes with the specified ingredients will sorta pop out at you – but not in a bad way like a scary movie. If that doesn’t work for you, then take a look at All Recipes. At the top of this website you’ll see “Ingredients.” Click on that and type in a few of the things on sale and see what pops up. Only those recipes with those ingredients will appear. It’s magic! It’s fun too……sometimes if I’m bored (like once a year or something), I’ll put in weirdo ingredients like “fava beans, coconut, and tofu.” Yeah, don’t be shaking your head. I know you’re right now thinking of things you can put in and see what comes up.

Once you decide what you’re cooking for the days that you’ll be home that week, you’ll also need to choose side options. For those, I typically pick what’s on sale. If it’s frozen veggies, I do that…..if it’s canned veggies, I do that…….if it’s salad, I do that……if it’s tofu, I don’t do that. Go look through your pantry and see what you don’t have to complete your meals – write it down on a list. Your goal is to visit the grocery store and only buy what’s on sale with your coupons and what’s on your list for your meals. We’re not buying things on a whim………unless you see some really cool looking pasta in fun shapes that you NEED – then that’s okay.

As far as breakfast and lunch are concerned, I just buy what’s on sale. If eggs are a good deal, we’ll have eggs a few days. I always keep cereal in stock, so we’re good there. Depending on certain things, I might buy brown bananas and make muffins. I might buy the sale pancake mix and whip up a large batch for several mornings. Usually I try to make extra at night for dinner so that I have leftovers the next day for lunch. We are not afraid of leftovers here. I know some of you are……but it’s really not scary. Embrace the leftovers! They are your friend – they are keeping you from visiting Wendy’s. You might buy canned soup for lunch – or lunch meat that’s been marked down. It doesn’t take much planning for breakfast and lunch. There are almost always sales for those items each week……and we’re loving some frozen waffles up in here!

Now, we’ll end on a very happy note – dessert. Oh yeah, baby…..I’m going there. Don’t lie and say you don’t eat it. Life is happier with dessert. Admit it. It’s VERY easy to plan dessert. For me, I just use what I have at home – things I’ve bought on sale. I cook from what I have. If I have an abundance of bananas and vanilla wafers, we’ll have banana pudding. If I have a bunch of cake mixes, we might have Mountain Dew Cake. Unless someone requests something specific, I just use what’s here. I might see an interesting recipe that I want to try, so I’ll keep that idea in the back of my mind…..then when the item goes on sale, I’ll know to buy it. I have quite a stack of those recipes waiting in my kitchen.Hopefully that helps you a little bit with your meal planning…..if not, then just blame it on my crazy method of thinking. You can shoot me an email with any questions and I’ll try to be a little more clear than mud.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her two children, Annie (June 2009) and Andy (August 2012). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.

  • Mikki

    THANK YOU!!! For months now I have been trying to plan my famil’s meals. I’ve written our list of favorite meals no less the 7 times. I pull out the circular and then nothing. I couldn’t figure out why I never got further. Now I know it is because I was trying to do it someone else’s way. Thank you for reminding me to make things work our families way :)

    • Stacy

      We’re all different….but meal planning is SO FUN once you get it figured out! :-)