Menu planning for busy people

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I’ve written this post previously, but since I’ve nearly halved my grocery bill I wanted to share it again! The first time I talked about it was in my post entitled “Time“. So here it is! Again!

I’ve not always been organised, it has taken years to get here! This post is to encourage and hopefully help all mums everywhere. It may not suit your lifestyle either. I can say with certainty that meal planning is awesome! Once you get the hang of it, like everything else.

As a working mum, thinking about cooking and what to cook is pretty low on the list of things that I enjoy doing. I’m busy, and I want to spend valuable time with my family. Years ago, before the birth of my first child, I purchased a book called “Table Tucker”. It is based on an amazing concept of a full year’s dinner meal plan, including shopping lists, recipes and other really handy tips. I don’t use it anymore for the following reasons;

  • Allergies in our family
  • Food preferences of my children
  • The recipes don’t cater for a consistent amount of people.

These things may not apply to you, and you can read more about it here.

So, the principles of how I meal plan are:

  • Shopping day is Thursday night or Friday.
  • I only cook on Fridays (for Friday and Saturday), Sundays (for Sunday and Monday), and Tuesdays I cook 2 meals (one for Tuesday and one for Wednesday and Thursday).
  • I plan for 4 weeks at a time and repeat the menu for the season. I’m working on Autumn’s menu at the moment.

4 weekly planner

The Food:

  • First I plan the dinners. I need 16 dinners that don’t repeat, that means that we won’t eat that meal again for 3 weeks.
  • Then I plan the weekends. Because we have more time on the weekends it’s nice to have less basic lunches.
  • Next is snacks – morning tea and afternoon tea, and I only plan 2 weeks which then repeat. The same for weekday lunches.

The Extras:

  • Then I write out shopping lists for each week, by food type to save time, e.g. dairy, veg etc. I include on there things like nappies, toothpaste, toilet paper etc that we may need.
  • This time round I’ve also made a binder with recipes. Some of the meals we haven’t tried yet, but by the second month the menu will be finalized. Some aren’t on here because I know them well enough not to need to type them out. Like Fish and Chips, beef burgers, Beef Roast and Veg etc.

Menu contents

Shopping day:

  • On my shopping day I grab the list, cross off anything I don’t need and stick to it!

Pro’s about menu planning this way:

What’s nice about this system (although it sounds tedious) is that:

  • Everyone knows what’s for the next meal time. And you can switch it up.
  • The shopping lists are done. No more impulse buys. And anyone can do the shopping.
  • It saves me a lot of money because I stick to the list and don’t buy unnecessary items.

Here is what my very basic week one looks like:

week 1

Cons about menu planning this way:

  • It could be too structured for other people.
  • There’s a fair bit of work involved to begin with.

I’m no nutritionist nor are we super super healthy, but we try! I’d love to know how you meal plan to save time and money.

Not convinced? Here’s a whole series on how to meal plan.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments ๐Ÿ˜Š

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10 thoughts on “Menu planning for busy people

  1. Thankyou so much for putting up this post! I love how everything from your meals to list is organized but at the same time there is a lot of variety in the meal options. This is definitely helpful especially if youโ€™re a working wife/mom. ๐Ÿ’•

    Also the chicken lemon noodles sound scrumptious ๐Ÿ˜ Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Lifebythepages, we were extremely impressed to hear that you managed to cut your food bill in half just from being strict with your shopping list. At Health Cent$ are are dedicated to educating people on low-income budgets cheap, healthy clean eating. Your templates are a great and handy way to keep track of what your eating. Interestingly enough we were wondering how much time you spent making each four week plan?
    -CS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello CS, I originally wrote this post in March this year, and I compared what I’ve been spending to the amount I spent in January.
      I’ve found that there are quite a few things that I can add to it. I’ve since changed where I shop too, and when I stick to seasonal produce it works a lot better. What I’m trying to say is that the starting point for saving money on groceries is to meal plan but it won’t work as well in isolation – other things need to change as well.
      I also keep an eye on what’s on special and buy in bulk as I know what I’ll need for the rest of my meal plan cycle.
      Budget friendly meals are another thing.
      I would estimate that it takes me about 2 days to do it well. I guess without interruption it would take me about 5 hours solid. That
      includes listing out every meal, typing up the plan, typing up the shopping lists and the recipes. The more user friendly it is, the more likely it will get used.
      I hope that helps.

      Like

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