Successful Meal Planning with These Surprising Hacks

The biggest benefits of meal planning, if done right, is saving time and money.  These surprising hacks I use every week guarantees successful meal planning.

Successful meal planning

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I’ve mentioned before, when I moved in with Sam and Zoe, they were on the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants life plan.  Part of that life plan (which I absolutely do not recommend, having been on it myself) was going to the grocery store every single day.  We would wander up and down the isles, and argue over what sounded good for dinner.  We would usually end up with frozen pizza, ice cream, and wine, spending entirely too much money on a lot of junk food.  Only to return the next day and repeat the process.  There had to be a better way.

So I decided, we could do better than that.  I sat down one evening, with a notebook, my laptop, and a dozen cookbooks and more determination than I even knew I had.  Two hours, and several arguments later I had a weeks worth of meals planned out, and a grocery list made.

That was two years ago, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things in that time that makes it easier, and probably more successful.

Hacks I use for successful meal planning

Take advantage of the sales  This is probably the most time-consuming but it is also the most important.  One of the unexpected benefits of grocery store delivery services (besides they do your shopping for you) is that now the prices are online.  I don’t check every item on my list, that would take too long.  I do go to my favorite grocery stores’ website and look at their ads.  And sometimes I compare their sale price to the regular price at other stores.

Know the Sale Cycles Did you know there is a grocery store sale cycle? Stores follow a pattern (or cycle) for what is on sale every month.  I found the monthly list on Inspiring Savings.  Maureen over at A Mess Free Life talks about the seven weeks she takes advantage of the lowest prices to stock up her pantry.

Use your smart phone  This is seriously my favorite way to save money.  I do a lot of my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart because of their price catcher in their app.  Scan your Wal-Mart receipt and they will compare it to stores in your area and if they find a lower sale price, they refund the difference to you.   I’ve saved over $60 using their app.  I also use the Ibotta app.  You can earn an extra $10 with your first redeemed rebate, using my referral link.  To make this step easier, I check out The Krazy Coupon Lady’s Weekly Wal-Mart deals.  She does all the research for me.

Plan meals that provide you with leftovers.  I save close to $30 a week by Sam taking leftovers to work for lunch.  I personally do not like leftover, but thank god Sam loves them.  I bought these Bento lunch boxes for his lunch, so every night after dinner he can dish up the leftovers in these and have lunch ready to go.

Know your schedule. We joined a gym this spring, and while we don’t go every day like we did in the beginning, we do go several days a week. It’s important that I know Sam’s work schedule, so I know when he will be home every day, or if he’s working at night.  I need to know everyone’s schedule so on busy nights I can plan a crock pot meal.  Because it’s all too easy to skip the gym because I have to stay home and cook dinner.

Be flexible I currently have frozen pizza and Chinese food, chicken strips, fish sticks and pot pies in my freezer for those nights something comes up, and I didn’t get dinner in the crock pot, or we don’t have time to cook what’s on the meal plan.  All of those can go in the oven and are ready in 30 minutes or less.

Don’t try new recipes on high stress days.  I love trying new things, because it is too easy to fall into a rut of the same meals over and over.  But it doesn’t matter how easy a recipe claims to be, if I’m rushed, or stressed, I’m going to screw it up.  And then I end up having to throw it away and punt to frozen pizza.  Save the new stuff for days you have time to take your time.

At the end of the day, though, the best hack I have for successful meal planning is find a routine that works best for you.  And don’t give up.

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