the beauty of meal planning (part 1)

Since the first week when I met Ryan and he brought me over to his house to make me a pot of taco soup, I have been amazed by his ability to freestyle in the kitchen. This man does not need a recipe. He knows how to mix spices just right so that I’m left grabbing seconds and asking, “what did you put in this again?”

I, on the other hand, am not blessed in this area. I am a recipe follower. While the majority of the time, these said recipes turn out just right it 1) requires planning because one cannot just throw together the contents of the fridge when they are a recipe follower and 2) sharing my prepared recipes isn’t quite as fulfilling as saying “I created this new dish for you baby”.

But my friends, meal planning and the blogging world has freed me from feeling bound to recipes and unprepared to make dinner. It has led me on a search for delicious sounding recipes I want to make. It has compelled me to plan the nights we will be cooking and the meals we will be eating. It has generated a  new desire to cook for my family. Let me tell you this girl has been in the kitchen a lot more in 2016.

So our weekly meal planning had to be three things to fit our lifestyle – inexpensive, with easy to follow recipes, and quick to make. Part one of this blog covers the first of these three qualities. We’re talking economical, budget savvy, low in cost meal planning. We have a monthly limit on our groceries of $200. This is roughly $50 a week and includes items for breakfast, lunch, and dinners. This all boils down to just over a dollar per person, per meal, people. It may seem limiting, but it’s totally doable.

1. Start early

Our meal planning starts before the craziness of the week begins. On Sundays we sit down with my trusty planner, the newspaper (or online) grocery adds, and Pinterest and plan what will be prepared for dinner in the coming week. Our key to meal planning on the cheap is to shop the sales. If we can freeze it or store it in an airtight container we’ll load up on super sales so they’ll last us a few months. Fresh produce is a little different and we like to show off our stealthy finds in our meals for the week. For example if there is a steal of a deal on fresh tomatoes – guess what all our meals are having that week? You got it, tomatoes.

2. Tour the town’s grocery stores

Our grocery trips usually last less than an hour, but include traveling to at least two different stores – sometimes as much as four. We buy eggs and milk at Kwik Trip – where we know that they are each consistently cheaper than the grocery stores in town. We buy our fresh fruit and vegetables at Aldi’s unless there is a fabulous deal elsewhere in town (which we research before heading out to the store). Aldi’s actually has a pretty large selection of organic items too.

The other grocery stores in town really only draw us in if they have a super special. Like $1 half gallons of whole milk, BOGO hummus, and $1.99 chicken breasts (we see you Cub Foods).

3. Stock up on staples – especially when they’re on sale 

The bulk foods section at Mankato’s HyVee (our local grocer) is exquisite – I could roam around their selection for days. In January they gave 10% off on everything in this section on Wednesdays so we definitely took advantage of the money saving opportunity and stocked up our cupboards for a few months with that sale (holla). Quinoa and a variety of beans are often featured in our recipes, and we make sure that our cupboards are filled with them. Oats make a cheap breakfast. We typically purchase this in bulk there as well. We love all these staples because they can bulk up a meal so that we can have leftovers for days. They’re a lot of fun for Ryan aka the Spice King to flavor in different ways

Now that you know how we do our grocery shopping on a budget, read part two on how we plan our meals. Hoping that you find the best super sales this week blogging friends – go get ’em!






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