We have tried so many times to crack meal planning. We have tried Youtube tutorials, books, blogs, and Pinterest. You name it, we have tried it. We just kept failing, and I mean failing, we would be wasting food, not wanting to eat what we planned or forgetting to get the chicken out of the freezer.
It was all going wrong and for some time we just didn’t bother and just had a ‘rough’ idea of what we had in to cook with. It got to the point that we were eating pasta because it was quick and easy to make or something bread-related at lunch. We had no varied diet and it was starting to get to us, both health-wise and mentally. We decided it was time to get back into gear.
We discovered so many helpful YouTube videos from American mums who were absolutely smashing meal prep. There was a huge difference in their meal prep and many ways we had tried.
Best Way To Start Meal Planning For Beginners
Many people look to create a meal plan to save money on food shopping and make better meals as well as be prepared for the week ahead. What we noticed was that we would choose the meals we wanted to make and then we would make the shopping list for these meals. A lot of the time it was costing us a fortune to buy the ingredients, supplies and meat.
After watching the likes of Jordan Page and The Budget Mom I found the way to make it work for us. Here is how to make meal planning for beginners really work for you.
Take An Inventory
Many times when we have been creating a meal plan, we have been doing it backwards. The key is to look at what you already have and make a plan from there, only buying items you need to complete that meal. As soon as I was told this, I was completely blown away because it made so much sense. Why go out and buy food when you have loads of it sat at home?
You can create a breakdown and take inventory of what you have in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Include everything you can make a meal out of, including sauces and spices. The biggest bonus to this is that you are using up what you have first, saving food going to waste and saving money.
You can simply write a list out of what you have for example tinned tomatoes, how many you have and the earliest date in which they need to be used by. We created a printable here if you want a quick and easy template to use.
Top Tip: Use a highlighter to highlight the items that are going out of date in that month/week. This will draw your eye to them first when creating your meal plan.
Now you have your inventory you want to move onto creating your meal plan.
Creating A Meal Plan
Now you have all your food in order and you know what you have on hand to make meals we can get started. Now I am not going to recommend recipes or ways to cook because I don’t want to change the way you cook but to simply make your week easier and more efficient.
Once we have got into a good rhythm of meal planning we can move onto batch cooking and more. Let’s take one step at a time and do it right.
When creating your meal plan have your inventory sheets in front of you, these will help you look at what you have to use and will almost plan a meal for you. Don’t be worried to have a night off for takeaways/eating out or even lazy meals such a microwave meal. It is best to use up all the freezer meals so you can start fresh next month.
Start with fresh food, especially if you have any fresh meat that needs to be used. If it needs freezing, freeze it but still plan your meals for that week with it. We created a printable here to make life easy and simple to relate back to. Put it on the fridge or keep in your journal, whatever works best for you.
Don’t forget to say in your meal plan that you plan to use 1 carrot and 2 onions etc. This way you can keep track of how many items you are using. Another great tip is documenting the recipe, save it for another date later down the line and you know that that exact meal requires 1 carrot and 2 onions. Especially great if you are trying to piece together odd ends of foods.
Plan Every Meal
While many people focus on dinner only, we don’t. As every week you are buying cereal, bread and spreads for breakfast you also want to document that expense and intake of food. Also think about lunches, whether you take them to work or the kids get school lunches. This is the best way to ensure you start off your meal planning for beginners right.
We created a meal planning sheet that has breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we wanted to be really in-depth I could even do one that included snacks in between meals etc. Especially as you will need to budget for snacks and plan any meal prep for them.
We often pick up reduced sausages/sausage meat and make sausage rolls for snacks throughout the week. Also if you have children this is a great way to keep them snack happy while keeping on top of your food budget.
Ways To Make The Most Of Your Monthly Budget
Most people here in the UK get paid monthly, that is generally the best way to budget. Many people in the money-saving industry advise on using cash envelopes. Personally, we don’t use them, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
Create A Budget
Now the best way to create a budget is to not scrimp straight away. I would advise looking at what you have spent in past months and just cut it by 10%. Work out how many people you are feeding in the household and work out what that is per person for the month.
There are many great ways to track your spending to help you see what you are overspending on and where you can cut back. This is such a helpful way of creating filling meals along with sticking to a healthy budget. It is a perfect tool for meal planning for beginners.
Create A Stockpile
Though you might not think that stockpiling is a good idea, it can be very helpful. We started picking up tins and long lasting food to help keep monthly bills down. Though initially you may be spending a little more, only spend what you can afford.
If there is a product you use that is reduced, clearance or on a good deal buy what you can. This is a great way of stockpiling and with products you will use up. Tinned foods such as tomato soup, chopped tomatoes, beans, and pulses are great things to stock up on. It doesn’t matter if you have only just got started on meal planning for beginners, you can do this in your first week or your 100th week.
Don’t Be Afraid To Buy In Bulk
We shop at Costco, only for certain items. There are some serious advantages to buying in bulk where you can. As long as you know the price works out better in the long run then buy in bulk where you can. In our first week, we took note of bigger items that we knew we would need every month to compare prices from supermarkets to buying in bulk.
Costco is great for buying meat, fruit and veg and household products such as laundry and cleaning supplies. This is an even bigger advantage if you have a family of 4 or more and generally go through products quicker. Things such as toilet roll can be a great saving at bulk buy shops.
While we don’t often do it we do use a lot of our leftovers for lunch the next day. Batch Cooking is great for families who are often spent more time cooking and cleaning than being at home relaxing with their family. There are so many ways you can make this work for you.
Many ideas are that you can create your batch of stew, take it out of the freezer the night before eating. It can defrost overnight and in the morning before leaving for work put it into the slow cooker on low. That or you can cook it up super fast when you get home. There are endless ways that this can help your budget along with your time.
That is everything you need to know and a little more on ultimate meal planning for beginners. We hope you found this helpful, useful and inspiring. We plan to make more helpful ways to help you keep your home tidy, organised and budget-friendly.