My method of meal planning is a simple one. We stock up on meat when it’s on sale and freeze the bulk of it. Once a month I pull everything out of the freezer and take inventory and create a meal plan for the month based on what we have on hand. I prefer this method to creating a plan and then buying the ingredients since it allows me to take advantage of deep discounts and save even more money than shopping around a recipe. We know what kind of meats that we like and what tends to be inexpensive, so our meals are a rotation of favorite recipes with a couple experiments sprinkled in a few times a month. I use a small magnetic white board to keep track of what is in the freezer and pantry. I haven’t had chicken stock for the past month and it has really limited my sauce recipes. I made some chicken stock this morning and froze 2 more bags of chicken bones for later use. It stinks running out of ingredients but it also teaches us to plan a little bit better.
Our freezer is getting a little bit low, so I filled some of the gaps with sausage that I bought yesterday. I’ll be working a lot harder to stock up this month so we can utilize our freezer space. Empty space in the freezer is an opportunity to cook something delicious so that we can have more time during the week to do the things that we want to do instead of spending time cooking dinner. I was planning to buy a pork shoulder to make pulled pork but the selection at the supermarket wasn’t too appealing. I’ll check next week or when I go to BJs, the price the beat for pork shoulder is $1.29 per lb which is what the discount grocery store near my house sells it for.
We mostly stick to our meal plan but there are times when I cook something in a big batch to freeze and its easier to also eat that for dinner. I made a giant batch of meatballs last month and we ended it up eating them that night. We also will flip around nights that we grill if the weather is looking bad on our normal Saturday steak night. You don’t have to stick to a meal plan perfectly for it to save you time and money. Being a little bit flexible helps us to stick to our meal planning long term. All I ask is when changing the plan to allow at least one day so that the meat can thaw in the fridge instead of trying to microwave a brick of solid, raw meat into a workable product…the microwave is for heating food and not so much for defrosting raw meat. I’m not a fan of the edges being cooked and the center being frozen.
I don’t plan out what we are having for our side dishes ahead of time. Sides normally consist of a vegetable and a starch.
Vegetables: Fresh veggies from that week at the grocery store or farmers market, frozen veggies if we need something quick
Starch: Rice, barley, potatoes or pasta
Here is what our meal plan looked like at the end of July. We had about a week of vacation that helped us keep the food bill lower than normal. We got take out once and ate dinner out one night during the month. By sticking with the routine we are able to save a ton of money without compromising what we eat. Not only does it save us money by meal planning but it saves us a ton of time during the week. We both work full time, so we try to make as much time for family after we get home and before bed time. Making it easy for yourself will help you stick with meal planning long term.