When it comes to planning meals for our family my hubby and I try to find ways to create the dishes we crave, while being mindful about our family’s health. Family meal planning is such a great way to keep meals on track and save money — and we’re sharing our family meal planning tips plus a free printable for your kitchen!
The average household in America wastes about $1,866 per year. That’s almost a third of a family’s food supply. But family meal planning can help you break the wasteful habits that are hurting your pocketbook.
Maybe you came for the free printable, but I hope you stay for these easy tips that can save your family big. And speaking of big families, like ours, we know the difference saving money can make.
For example, that $1,866 of wasted food could equal a family vacation, dental care for your children, or money down for a new vehicle. These items can make a significant improvement in your quality of life.
Following these family meal planning tips will help you keep more of your money versus throwing it in the garbage.
Table of Contents
Family Meal Planning
What is a Meal Plan
“What’s for dinner?” Meal planning takes this inevitable daily question and addresses it once. In fact, it’s organizing your ideas for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the entire week and then shopping and prepping for these meals.
This will reduce the number of trips you need to take to the grocery store and more easily prepare your ingredients.
For me, this was so hard to do because it felt overwhelming… and I like easy.
Know Your Schedule
The first step in family meal planning is to know your family’s schedule. This includes knowing how many people will be eating a given meal and how many meals you can get out of your groceries.
If you know your husband works late on Tuesday’s you may make a smaller dinner. Or if your family is on the run during a particular night with sports activities don’t purchase groceries for that night.
With that being said, American families spend nearly half of their food money on eating out. So, if you want to make a real impact on your food expenditure plan ahead for those meals on the run.
You can send your husband to work with two meals. Or pack a picnic dinner for you and the kids to eat at their sports activities. Having a better understanding of your meal needs will make you a more conscious shopper.
Create a Pantry List
I know we all wish we were more organized, but sometimes we forget what items we already have in the pantry. It can be helpful to keep a running list in your pantry or on your phone of the items you have on hand so you don’t waste money on unneeded things. You can refer to this list as you create your family meal plan. Just be sure to cross items off your list as you use them.
Now, I have to say, keeping up with a list is something that I strive for, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually made it happen. What does help if you’re like me and want to meal plan but keeping another list just isn’t feasible right now (I mean, we have six people getting into our pantry at any given hour!), ORGANIZATION and labels.
Along this line, we recommend starting your new family meal planning movement with an evaluation of your pantry. As you go through your items, be sure to rotate items that will expire sooner to the front. You will want to continuously do this and to keep these items in mind as you create your weekly family meal plan.
When our pantry is organized, where everything has a place and we have bins and jars that are labeled, it makes it much easier for anyone in the family to see exactly what we have and understand where it goes. It also makes it simple to do a quick check to see what you have plenty of and what you’re running low on.
Related: 3 ESSENTIAL PANTRY ORGANIZATION TIPS
Plan Ahead, Duh, Right?!
This is what family meal planning is all about, but we often forget how planning ahead can save us time and money. Your family meal plan will guide your shopping trip, how you cook your meals, and how you distribute them.
Buy in bulk
If you have a larger family you will want to take advantage of the money-saving power of buying in bulk. At a warehouse store, you can often purchase two loaves of bread for the price of one. This is perfect for all of those lunches you are going to make.
You will usually find the best savings on food items versus personal care items. Shop with an awareness of what these items would cost you at your local supermarket. It doesn’t help you to have a large amount of something you won’t use up for the same per oz. price.
Cook in Bulk
Cooking in bulk will save you time. Cook extra of an item early in the week that you can use in another meal. For example, cooking extra chicken breast when you make Shrimp and Chicken White Queso Rice can then be used in your lunch on a salad, or in a casserole for another night’s dinner.
Use Your Freezer
You can also use a similar method by doubling the recipe you are making. Freeze the second dish to be used on another night. Making dinners easier will make it more likely that you will opt. to eat at home.
We also recommend trying to prepare various crockpot recipes in gallon bags that you can freeze. Pick a day that you have time to focus on preparing your meat and vegetables all at one time for several meals. This will provide you with an easy option for busy nights that you can throw into your crockpot in the morning and enjoy in the evening.
Make a Plan for Leftovers
On your family meal planning free printable make sure you account for using up your leftovers. Monday night’s lasagna can be Wednesday’s lunch.
One thing we like to do is leave a meal open at the end of the week for leftovers and cleaning out the fridge. I know it’s not super exciting, but it is a great way to use up all of the leftover bits of things in the refrigerator by setting out a smorgasbord of items and everyone can eat what they want. In all transparency, sometimes my kids end up eating cereal, and that’s okay too (they actually get REALLY excited about that!).
Our one warning is to not get into the habit of making a large amount of food that you eat for the next day’s lunch, then dinner, and then lunch again… you’ll tire of it too quickly and end up spending more to get something else. Set yourself up for success by staggering when you eat the leftovers.
Order Groceries Online
If you have a bad habit of buying foods that aren’t on your shopping list we suggest ordering your groceries online – this has been a HUGE budget saver for us! We have our delivered right to the door to avoid having to even tote the twins out in car seats, but picking up your order works as well and both eliminate the temptation.
Stores like Walmart Online Grocery and Target offer pickup at no additional charge to you. It will save you time and money in the long run, or you can even opt for having it delivered to your door for a small charge. And if you are concerned about the quality of your products you are welcome to look through your order and can reject any item you are unhappy with.
Amazon, of course, has prime delivery and offers pantry items as well. And if you’re into stocking up in bulk, BJs Wholesale offers delivery of your favorite bulk items and grocery too!
Family Meal Planning Free Printable
We hope this family meal planning free printable will help you get started on your time and money-saving adventure. I know it has made a difference for my family. Now, the real challenge is to stay committed and to use up what you spend your hard-earned money on. If you liked this post you may also want to check out this post on how to Shop and Save on Groceries.
Do you have any family meal planning tips? Let me know in a comment below!