People often ask me how we manage to feed our four boys and not break the bank or lose our sanity. For real. They ask me (like I actually know what I’m doing).
“You must meal plan really well.”
“Have you had to take out a second mortgage?”
“Your grocery bills must be astronomical!”
The answers are yes, no, and not really.
Yes, we meal plan. No second mortgage or job (yet). And the bills are high, but not ridiculous.
What’s our secret? There are a few things. We have a large chest freezer that we use faithfully. This allows us to buy in bulk when things go on sale. A few dollars on chicken fingers can add up to big savings when bought in large quantities rather than week-to-week. We also buy pasta, sauce, crackers, cookies, and other staples and pantry-type items in bulk when the deals are found. And anyone who knows us is well-aware that we have an entire section of our fridge designated solely to cheese. WE STOCK UP, SON.
When it comes to planning, we do it, but nothing too complicated. I was going to just share my most recent plan with a friend or two, but since others have expressed an interest, I’m sharing it here. This type of post is new for me, so be gentle.
First step: I make a list of well-liked meals based on past experience. This time I loosely broke it down into categories to ensure I had a balance.
Second step: I slot five meals into weeks for the month. I don’t worry about selecting seven because sometimes we eat out/order in and often weekends we play by ear.
Third (this is a new step): I take an inventory of the staple items we have on hand and then make a list of general grocery items we need as well as things for specific meals. The number beside some items refers to the week we are planning to use that ingredient. That way we can wait until it goes on sale and also stock up.
As the week begins, we tentatively decide which nights we are having each meal and which one of us is cooking it. Creating this in pencil allows us to adapt as the week or month requires.
I’m no hero. Life gets busy. Sometimes I double up a recipe and freeze one for a tough week or an evening when we have a sitter. And sometimes I accept that the thought of making a meal will break my spirit and we just heat something up. It’s important to go easy on yourself, too.
*disclaimer: Vegetables are implied. I do not plan that part in advance since Bearded Husband makes bi-weekly trips to the Farmers’ Market (or is it Farmer’s Market?)and stocks up on produce. We eat them, but we eat what’s in season or on sale.
Interested in reading more about our budget-friendly shopping? Here you go.