Do you need to cut your grocery budget and always start a meal plan with the best of intentions? Make a beautiful meal plan, create a shopping list, go out and buy all of the ingredients…only to have your meal plan fail just days later? If you’re like me, this has happened to you more than once.
There’s a REASON your meal plan keeps failing time after time.
Where Your Meal Plan Keeps Going Wrong
The number one mistake people make when meal planning is…
Trying new recipes.
I would hop onto Pinterest, pin awesome recipes that looked great in the picture and didn’t have too many crazy ingredients, add them to my meal plan, and move on.
I’d go grocery shopping, buy every single thing on my list (which usually included something we already had about 3 of) and come home feeling ready to tackle this meal plan thing once and for all.
Then, the day would come to make that weird Pinterest recipe we’ve never tried before – and it no longer sounded good, I wondered what the heck I was thinking when I decided my kids would even try it, and I would dig around in the freezer hoping there was a pizza buried in there somewhere.
The second reason your meal plan keeps failing is…
You schedule meals daily.
Hear me out.
If you sit down with your calendar and plan around your events, you’re only doing meal planning half right.
You have to consider the human factor.
Yes, maybe you THINK you’re going to want chili on the 3rd Thursday of the month, but what do you do when that day rolls around and it’s unseasonably warm outside, your stomach has been upset all day, or you have last second plans come up and you don’t have time to let it simmer as long as you’d hoped?
If you’re like most people (me included!) your meal plan goes out the window along with your motivation.
You aren’t alone!
What to do instead
Listen to me, following a meal plan IS POSSIBLE! You just have to follow a few key steps to set yourself up for success:
Stick to tried and true recipes
It’s okay to add in a new recipe here and there. After all, almost every recipe we make was new to us at some point unless it was passed down from our families. As a rule of thumb, I only add one, MAYBE two new recipes to our rotation with every meal plan.
Any more than that and I’m looking for pizza in the depths of our deep freezer.
Don’t plan your meals by day!
This is the one that used to get me every time.
I’d plan out every meal, write it on our calendar, and then blow off our meal plan when I didn’t feel like eating whatever was on the agenda that day.
Here’s what to do instead…
We usually meal plan by month, but you can also do it by week, biweekly, whatever works for you.
Make your meal list, make a shopping list of everything you need to pick up (making sure to shop your own pantry/freezer first!) and stop there. Don’t feel the need to assign your meals to a day.
Have a list of your meals for the period of your meal plan, make them as you want them, and cross them off as you go.
Pretty quickly you’ll learn to only put things on your meal plan that you love to make and eat!
It’s perfectly fine (and I totally encourage) having the same meal on your meal plan more than once
We meal plan monthly.
The days fly by, but a month is a pretty long time!
It’s not uncommon at all for me to have chili on our meal plan a couple of times.
A few perks to this…
You can make the meal once but double or triple the recipe and then freeze the left overs. This makes for AWESOME last second meals!
You save even more money because you can buy the ingredients in bulk (or just stockpile…more on that later)
Shop your house first!
I know I mentioned this earlier, but it’s so important that I have to repeat it. So you follow the steps to make your meal plan:
You pick your tried and true recipes
You look at your schedule and figure out how many meals you ACTUALLY need
You add a meal more than once if your family will happily eat it
You make a list of all of the ingredients from each recipe
Shop your cabinets, pantry, freezer. Really dig in there and figure out what you have.
Don’t you dare buy chili beans when you already have 6 cans in your cabinet!
Cross off everything you have and try to really cut down that shopping list as far as you can.
The point of meal planning is to be organized, stop eating out, AND save money!
We’re not saving money if we buy things we don’t need (unless they’re on an awesome sale and you can afford to stock up, but more on that later)
Don’t forget to look at your schedule
How many meals do you REALLY need on your meal plan?
If you’re going to a birthday party one night and out for drinks with friends another night, you probably aren’t going to be eating at home those days. Don’t buy ingredients to make meals on those days.
You won’t use them.
If plans fall through, you’ll have a few of those back up meals in your freezer from our previous step!
Only plan dinners
Lunches can be left overs and breakfast can be a rotation of the same few things every few days. With a big package of oatmeal and a few extra ingredients, you can make loads of different tasty breakfasts.
If you’re trying to plan 3 square meals a day, you’re being way too organized (unless you’re into that kind of thing and if so, please teach me your ways).
In my humble opinion, attempting to plan 3 meals per day for any extended length of time on a meal plan is setting yourself up for failure.
Whether it’s oatmeal, fresh fruit, cereal, or something else that you crave every morning – just have a few things on hand so you can switch it up. Don’t make your meal plan so regimented that you have zero wiggle room. Add 3-5 breakfast items to your shopping list and move on.
Use up those leftovers at lunch time and you have a meal plan that allows you to only plan dinners. This is a great thing because it’s less stressful, way less planning, and less mind-reading when your families don’t understand why they can’t just have cocoa puffs for breakfast instead of that cute mason jar overnight oat recipe you insist they try.
If you’re committed to frugal living and are getting discouraged because your meal plan has failed time and time again, don’t give up! By adding some leniency and familiarity to your meal plan, you can create a weekly or monthly meal plan that will save you money, save your sanity, and restore your confidence in your ability to meal plan!
Do you struggle with sticking to a meal plan? What is your number one struggle? Let me know in the comments!