Family Real Life

Saving Money and Pounds ~ Biweekly Meal Planning

A few years ago we found ourselves in an unhealthy, expensive food pattern. Most days I forgot to even think about dinner. Home with 3 small children for me meant taking one moment at a time and not looking too far ahead. That would leave my husband calling on his way home from work asking if I had taken anything out for dinner and me falling silent! 🙁 This was followed by either a last minute trip to the grocery store where you buy more than you need and don’t catch good sales, or some version of take out/ eating out. These habits are not very healthy and are very costly.

As a solution we decided to try planning our meals out ahead of time (our dinners), and shopping accordingly. We started with a master list of meals that we like, with some being quick and easy, some requiring more cook time, etc. We have added things to our list as we find more things we like and that suit our busy time schedule. It is not high tech, it is literally a shopping list piece of paper on the side of our refrigerator.

Here are some of the things on our list:
*stuffed peppers
*chicken french
*bbq chicken
*tuna casserole
*salad night
*beef barley soup
*tacos
*hamburger stroganoff

Having that list and our calendar on hand, we sit down in the kitchen to make our shopping list. I do all of the writing and my husband does the inventory checks. It takes us about an hour to make the two week meal plan and shopping list. We make our meals based on our schedule for each night, what we have on hand, and what sales are going on. On nights when my husband is home and has time we schedule more elaborate meals as he likes to cook. On days when I am gone all day we schedule things like crock-pot meals, leftover nights, or taking out a frozen soup to thaw and serve. When we have a particularly short amount of time to eat we try to pick things that the kids really like so getting them to eat will be easier.

After our dinner list is made we go through each meal and add to our shopping list what we don’t already have on hand. Then we go through breakfast options, and lunch options adding where we are short. For instance our children eat oatmeal, waffles, bagels, certain cereals, etc. so we check the cupboards for our supplies of each and add to the list what is lacking.

This type of planning has saved so much stress, money, and pounds gained. We are able to eat healthier and for less money. The kids enjoy knowing what is on the schedule for dinner, even if they don’t like the meal that is coming! It has helped to give some stability and order to the food/nutrition part of our lives and budget.

About the author

Heidi

Heidi lives in upstate New York where the winters are long & cold, but where she truly appreciates the lack of extreme weather such as tsunamis and hurricanes! Her house is filled up with her loving husband of 17 years, 3 busy children, & 2 dogs (Muffin & Oscar). Homeschooling started out as a trial run with a child beginning 2nd grade, & almost 9 years later has become a lifestyle which brings great joy. You can often find her behind her camera, or working something out in Photoshop. With 3 children homeschooling multiple ages is the norm in their house. You can find her writing at on her own blog, Starts At Eight where she often focuses on homeschooling high school, elementary unit studies, and books/reading.

9 Comments

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  • I could have written this article…it sounds just like my family. We just started meal planning & are trying to cut our food budget by over half. We went to a cash system & made a list of all our meals. It’s amazing when you have a plan how frugal you can be, I’m creating new lunch meals w/ leftovers, less stress because I just have to check the calendar…and we haven’t eaten out once!! 🙂

    • Mel, I too love knowing I just look at the calendar and my dinner is right there. It takes much of the stress out of my already busy days. It also helps my husband to be engaged in the process as he is usually the one to take out the meat we need to thaw.

  • I have a list of maybe 35 meals in my home binder. They are meals that we all like, and use mostly staples that I always have in the house. The veggie component is usually whatever I have on hand. There are definitely still times I throw it out the window and order pizza though…like when my two babes decide to skip rest time and have melt downs at 30 minute intervals until my husband comes home from work 🙂

    • Heather, wow 35! I think I could only hope to have a meal list that extensive! We are trying to expand our list as we go along. We find that have “quick” meals on hand helps with those hectic, unplanned melt down days. Things like soup (either canned or we often have homemade soups in the freezer), we fall back to grilled cheese and tomato soup as well! I don’t blame you for rushing for the pizza! Some days can be totally overwhelming! It has gotten easier for us as our kids have gotten older. They are now 12 (13 in 3 weeks – she makes me specify!), 9, and 6.

  • This is great, Heidi! I had a menu (a four week plan that we’d rotate through each month) with about 10-12 different meals on it, and it worked so well for us. I can’t remember why, but the menu got pulled down from its “posted spot” on the wall, and things went downhill from there. My husband and I were just talking a few days ago about how we need to get back to the menu. It is SO HELPFUL!

  • Cindy, it is amazing to me how just a couple of hours of planning (between the initial creation of a meal list and then the biweekly meal/shopping list we make) can save so much time and stress over the long haul! I would recommend doing some sort of meal planning to everyone! It is totally worth the small amount of prep work and thought up front!

  • Heidii–Your very first paragraph described our days so perfectly! We, too, implemented the same concept of weekly planning. It made all the difference. I commented on another of your posts about the art curriculum you reviewed, but my server was busy and it couldn’t go through…anyway, all that to lead into saying that I love seeing your posts pop up on my FB newsfeed. You have so many wonderful reviews and ideas, and I am always inspired! Really glad to know you through NOBH. Have a beautiful day!
    Love and God Bless,
    Christy

    • Christy,
      I can’t begin to tell you how touched I was by reading your kind words here. I am sure you can relate to wondering if anyone is actually listening (reading) and really gains any benefit from what you put out there. Thank you so much for encouraging me along on this blog-o-sphere journey. I am truly blessed to be supported by ladies like yourself! 🙂

  • I think it’s fun that you guys do this together! I am on my 5th week now of a meal plan and it’s working very well. I have been putting it off, but this year we are getting busier and I had to do it. Our girls also like to know what is coming – kids crack me up.

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