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If you need to save money on your groceries, you need a meal plan. Over the years, meal planning has become a lot easier. However, I cover some of the most frequently asked questions about meal planning. Designed to help with the beginner in mind!
Frequently Asked Meal Planning Questions
Feeling more organized during meal times encourages me to continue searching out new recipes to cook for my family.
Before menu planning, I found dinner time to be aggravating. It was a hassle! I find myself saying: “It is that time again” and digging through the fridge for something that would feed my family. This is not the case anymore.
I find that menu planning not only will help you to put food on your table, but it will also help keep you sane. Saving money, saving time, eating healthy, and saving my sanity is why I strive to menu plan every week.
For many who have not yet started to meal planning, but want to may have some extra questions. Over the course of writing many articles on meal planning, I have been asked an array of questions. Below, I have answered those questions.
I thought it would be fitting to go over some frequently asked questions about meal planning. It is so easy to help each other out in the process of how we prepare. We all have novel ideas and tips that work well for our family’s needs.
We all have to eat, so why not choose to plan meals that can fill your family with nutrition, keep money in your wallets, and give you more time in the day for yourself?
Frequently Asked Questions About Meal Planning
How do you come up with meal ideas?
I like to do a quick family meeting and ask them what meals they would like to have over the next month. I also like to keep past meal planning pages as references. Sometimes, you forget about some of the good meals.
I keep a few days available to try out new recipes. And the bonus if we like them, they get added to our list of meals.
Pro Tip: Go through the main food types – Italian, Mexican, all-American, soups, meat & side. Within each of those categories you will come up with several ideas. For example, for Mexican cuisine, you can make fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas.
How often do you meal plan?
I like to meal plan once a week (typically Monday afternoons. During my free time). It works well for our family so that our meal plan matches our schedule. If you are just starting out, I would suggest meal planning once a week so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Why a meal plan?
Simply, it saves my sanity and saves our family money. I hate that feeling of not knowing what to make for dinner and then not having the right ingredients on hand to make something.
We don’t eat out often based on our budget. A little plan can go very far.
What type of meals do I need?
Monitoring your weekly calendar, and assess what evening challenges and opportunities you have for the week will define what types of meals you need.
Some weeks we need quick meals. Some are often no cook. Then there are days when we can have fun-themed meals that the entire family will love. For example, Nacho bar night.
While I absolutely love to cook for my family, I don’t always have the opportunity. And I don’t let that guilt persuade my thoughts. You should not either. You are planning for a reason.
How do you think of meals to make for your family?
Meal ideas can come from many sources. First, I often like to ask my family what they would prefer. Be prepared, you may get some excellent ideas and some that may not fare well for that week.
Pinterest, meal planning apps, magazines, or simple social media feeds can give for some delicious meal ideas. So pin, save and plan meals you have spotted over the week.
You can search for boards based on main food types – Italian, Mexican, all-American, soups, meat & side, and come up with ideas.
Here are my favorite cookbooks for meal ideas
What if I skip a day on my menu because something came up?
Like all good plans, we always have to improvise to make them work. Sometimes events happen on the “fly” and I adjust my menu by either bumping everything ahead one day or saving “that meal” for next week.
I also keep a small box in my pantry with quick meal ideas. Such as spaghetti night. In that box, it contains pasta, sauce & shelf-stable parmesan cheese.
Why don’t you plan a menu for an entire month?
I find that a once-a-week system works for me. I can only predict so much in the future, and I would hate to waste food and energy on the unknown for the month. Assuming you shop once a week as well, this type of planning works for those who have the time to head into the store each week.
Fresh food only has a small time frame to be used up before it will spoil not saving you money. I love my fresh veggies and fruit. We shop once a week.
Do you prepare all your food for the week in advance?
Yes, and No.
It really depends on what I am cooking. If I need to defrost meat from the freezer, I usually do it the night before. Some types of meats require more defrost time, so yes, I prep it a few days in advance. I do tend to plan meals that use the same type of meat.
For example, I will cook two pounds of ground beef for tacos one night and store the other one pound of ground beef for lasagna the next night. Why waste your time cleaning a frying pan each night?
I don’t, however, prepare any of my “sides”. I usually have ample time to make our sides. When our family goes to Maine each year, I prepare all our meals in advance, so little to no “fussing” is needed for mealtimes. We rent a house out and I bring what we will need and purchase fresh items at the store when we arrive.
Do you assemble the meal and meal plan by yourself?
I would like to call this a family event. I enjoy giving my “helpers” (my kids) a small task in preparing dinner and meals. It gets them motivated. The biggest plus with their involvement is they will eat dinner better knowing they helped plan it.
My husband, on the other hand, gives me ideas about what he would like to see on the menu for the week. He often comes home with recipes from co-workers, or recipes for different resources that he would like to try out. While he doesn’t often cook, he does bring a bit of randomness to the menu.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment for those questions I know you dying to ask about meal planning.
How often do you go to the grocery store?
For our family and based on weekly meal planning. I go shopping once a week. There have been a few times when we have run out of an ingredient that wasn’t expected. I thank my teenage boy for that one.
Need some more help with meal planning?
- Menu Planning Apps & Tools
- Meal Planning 101- “Ready to Try Menu Planning” – Plus Free Menu Printables
- Meal Planning 101 – Helping You Save More Money