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How to Do Meal Planning for a Week and Save Money

Since the community quarantine started, I've been buying enough food supplies to last two weeks. That's when I realized the necessity of meal planning, whether for a week or two. I've not been intentionally doing it, but I guess I do somehow.

When I was still single, I didn't really think about what I'm having for lunch or dinner. I just see what's available at home, which my mom bought. If I'm not at home, I just buy what I fancy. However, that changed when I had children. 

A Few Good Reasons to Do Meal Planning

This is especially true to you if you're a mother like me. Yeah, it's also important if you're wanting to lose weight. But that's not just the reason. 

Meal planning will help you to save money.

You learn to buy only what you need. Because you're planning your meals, you know exactly what ingredients you still have or don't have. So, you cut down on wasted food ingredients and it helps you to spend only on needed items and stay within your budget. 

You can also save money by buying meat and veggies in bulk, which is usually priced cheaper. And you avoid buying expensive fast food or ready-to-eat meals, because you have your meals planned. 

Those are just a few tips on how to meal plan on a budget.

Meal planning allows you to manage your time wisely.

After buying the ingredients, I usually do some meal prepping as well. For example, I cut up the meat I purchased in bulk, pack them in portions good for one meal, then put them in the freezer. Doing so allows me to thaw only what I want to cook. Just imagine thawing a big chunk of meat when you only need a portion of. That is so time consuming. 

You can also prep other ingredients, like peeling and cutting up vegetables even the night before you cook them, if you know what you need when. This is especially helpful if you know you're gonna be busy or will be home late. 

Meal planning helps you to eat healthier.

Your family can enjoy healthy balanced meals, since you pick the recipes you like and cook a variety of meals and not just fried foods day after day. You can serve to your children delicious soup dishes for lunch as I've mentioned in the last blog post. That's super nutritious. 

Now that you know more about the importance of meal planning, how do you do it?

Meal Planning for Beginners

Here are the three simple steps for meal planning:

1. Select recipes

In this step, you select the recipes or food items you want to serve to your family or yourself. Include food ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks even desserts. It's also a good idea to have your kids help you come up with a list of recipes.

Decide exactly how much meal planning you want to do. Is it days or weeks ahead of time? This really depends on you and a few factors. 

Think about how much time you have for meal planning and prepping. How often your family likes to change up recipes. Ask yourself what is your spending budget for planning these meals. 

You should also check how much space you have in your refrigerator and freezer. It's okay to plan for 3 weeks ahead of time, but do you have enough space to put everything you might buy? When you are just starting out, try to plan for just one full week and see how it goes. 

Once you have a list of your meals or food items for the week, you need to list down the ingredients or food items you need to buy minus the ingredients you still have in stock in your kitchen. This keeps you from buying unnecessarily.

2. Shop for ingredients

When you have your grocery list, you can head to the supermarket and pick everything you need for the week. Buy everything but spend within your budget. 

To help you with the first two steps, you can download the free weekly meal planner and grocery list printable from Craftsy (not an affiliate link). 

free weekly meal planner and grocerly list

3. Prepare those ingredients

Once you get home from shopping, you could already do some meal prepping. That is what I do with the meat I buy. I just don't dump them in the freezer. I cut them up (fillet, cubed, etc) and pack them into meal portions.  

When packing, think about how many people you are serving per meal at home. Add some extra, too, just in case everybody really enjoys the food you cooked. I highly recommend labeling the packed foods to help you identify what is in the pack and what recipe you intend to cook with it. If I don't label, I usually forget what I'm supposed to do with a pack. 

You could also do some other meal prepping steps. I remember my mom boils the meat and cooks viands (like her really delicious Mechado) in big batches. She then packs them in serving portions and freezes them. Then, we just thaw and reheat a pack at mealtimes. This strategy of making freezer meals is perfect for busy moms (my mom used to work in the hospital in shifting hours).

Other meal prepping steps you can do ahead of time include boiling pasta, cooking beans, and cutting up veggies. As long as you have enough space in your refrigerator and freezer, it's okay to do these things. It's actually good as freezing extends the shelf-life of foods up to a few months.

Now don't forget to let your children help with the meal prepping. You will not just be training them to do kitchen work in the process, you also get to spend some bonding time with them.

Tips for Making Your 7-Day Family Meal Plan

Be Detailed in Your Meal Plans

When you make your meal plan, anticipate when you will have leftovers, which you can have for meals later. Note that in your plan! 

This helps you lessen the number of lunches or dinners you need to prepare, which further saves you a lot of time in terms of meal preparation for the week. 

Leave Room For Flexibility

Although planning meals is a great way to save time during the week, there will be some situations where it doesn’t go quite as you planned out. So be flexible with your meal planning. 

For example, you suddenly want to go out to dinner to celebrate a big promotion your spouse got. Don’t hesitate to celebrate just because you had planned to cook mac and cheese for dinner. Just readjust your meal schedule. Meal planning is supposed to simplify things without being too restrictive.

As a stay at home mom, even if I can cook when needed, I do meal planning and do a bit of meal prepping so it is easier for me to cook. I plan meals for 7 days, actually for 14 days since the pandemic, so that I could buy in one go what we need from the supermarket. It's good that we have enough space in our ref and freezer. 

Let me share with you the dishes we usually have for lunch and dinner in a span of 2 weeks. I did not list the breakfast and snacks any more. 

  1. Chicken or pork adobo, this is on top of the list since it is the easiest to prepare.
  2. Sinigang (Sour Soup0 fish or pork
  3. Tinolang manok
  4. Nilagang baka or Beef stew
  5. Baked salmon with veggies
  6. Breaded chicken fillet made with different sauces or dips. The sauce could be honey garlic, buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce, or tartar sauce.
  7. Chicken curry
  8. Beef or pork caldereta
  9. Spaghetti
  10. Carbonara
  11. Chicken macaroni soup
  12. Arroz caldo
  13. Bangus sisig or Tofu sisig
  14. Sauteed vegetables with tuna, sardines or ground/minced meat
  15. Tortang talong and fried fish
  16. Lumpiang shanghai or spring rolls
  17. Siomai (pork, chicken or beef) or Dumplings
  18. Laing and fried fish
  19. Bicol express, a spicy dish with coconut milk
  20. Bangus sardines
If I'm cooking for lunch and dinner, there should be about 28 dishes. I just have about 20 on the list. That is because, sometimes, we intentionally cook more of the assigned dish for lunch, for example, so that we could eat the same dish for dinner. Some people don't like that, but for our family, that is okay. On a few times (lazy days), we buy ready-to-eat food.

We usually cook just one viand per meal. But if the viand is a veggie, it is often partnered with fried fish. Sometimes, I fry spring rolls, which were prepared in bulk beforehand and kept in the freezer. 

So far, that is how it's been for me when it comes to meal planning. It allows me to save money, time and effort. Going to the supermarket just once every week or two weeks already saves me a lot of time and hassle. 

I hope this post is able to help you if you're just starting out with meal planning. If you've been doing it, perhaps you have a good suggestion in relation to this topic. Please feel free to leave a comment. Have a nice day.


Melissa said…
Since the pandemic meal planning had been crucial. I love how much money we have saved but do miss going out to restaurants
AiringMyLaundry said…
I should try this. I hate cooking so maybe meal planning will make things a bit easier.
Chad said…
I have been meal prepping for over 3 years now and I love it1!!! It makes everything so much easy.
Chin chin said…
Hi Melissa. I miss going out to restaurants, too.
AiringMyLaundry, try it. It could make preparing meals less stressful.
That's great, Chad.
I admire your dedication to making your meal planning. Though I'm lousy with this, I admit that making a meal plan is a very smart idea and saves time and money :)
Hollie said…
It's so true. Meal planning usually helps me save money and stay on track with meals. Sometimes When I don't have things planned out, I often feel like I just go with the easiest thing (which isn't always the healthiest).
Lisa said…
These are such helpful tips. I will try to better plan our meals and save money in the process!
Gladys Nava said…
Thanks for sharing your ideas about meal planning! Saving money is the best part on your blog because of this pandemic. Love your blog
Norma said…
This post is so useful. Great ideas to help with meal planning. I usually always eat the same, not sure if that counts as meal planning.

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