Save Time and Money With Weekly Meal Planning

I'm a numbers person, so I pay close attention to my family's budget. For the most part, we're a pretty frugal family, but the one spending category that really bothers me is how much we spend on food. And I don't mean eating out... I'm talking about how much we spend on groceries each week. For a small family, our grocery budget is out of control.

So when I learned about weekly menu planning, I was thrilled. Especially when I realized how much menu planning could help reduce our grocery budget.
Save Money
There are many benefits to weekly menu planning, but the greatest benefit to my family is how much money we save on groceries. By planning our meals in advance (I usually plan our meals one week at a time), I know exactly what I need to buy at the store, and I avoid buying food that we won't eat that week. Before I started planning our meals, we wasted a lot of food because it spoiled before I got around to cooking it. Meal planning also reduces the number of times I go to the grocery store (I used to go almost every day!), which means fewer impulse buys. I don't know about you, but every time I go to the store to pick up one or two items, I've spent $50 or $60 before I know it. Weekly meal planning helps reduce unnecessary purchases, which means huge savings over the long run. Cutting out the daily grocery trips probably saves me the most in our grocery budget.
Save Time
The next advantage to weekly menu planning is the time it saves you. First, because you spend less time figuring out what to cook for dinner (or surfing the web for ideas). Second, since you already have everything you need to cook dinner (for the whole week!) you won't have to run by the store after picking the kids up or on your way from work. Imagine how much time you'll save just from eliminating daily trips to the store. If you're like me and go to the store several times a week, you could save a couple of hours of time just by planning your meals ahead of time.
Eat Healthier
Another huge benefit you get from weekly menu planning is that it helps you eat healthier. People who do meal planning tend to eat better because they go out to eat less often. By eating out less often, you cut out a lot of the fatty foods that you would normally eat at fast food restaurants. Also, when you cook at home, you're more likely to select fresh, healthy ingredients for your meals.
How to Do Weekly Meal Planning
So now that you can see the benefits of weekly meal planning, how do you do it? The first thing you should do is write down all of your family's favorite dishes. I keep a 3-ring binder with my family's favorite recipes next to my cookbooks.
Next, look through the weekly grocery sale ads for dinner ideas. Most grocery stores have their weekly ads listed right on their websites now, and some are even interactive (allowing you to create a printable shopping list - very cool!). Your goal is to scan the grocery store flyers for sale items that can be used for this week's meals.
Next, take a look at the food you already have in your fridge and pantry. Do you have any food that needs to be eaten right away? One of the great things about weekly meal planning is that you waste less food because you only buy what you plan on using that week, and you actually use what's in your refrigerator before it has time to spoil.
At this point, you should have an idea of what you want to cook for the week based on the grocery store ads, what you already have on hand, and your family's schedule for the week. It's time to write out the meals you plan on cooking for the week (a weekly meal planner worksheet works great for this), and fill out your grocery list for the items you don't have on hand.
You're almost done! Post your menu on the fridge for all to see, create your meals each day (or cook them ahead of time and freeze them), then enjoy the rest of your week. Your week should go much more smoothly now that you don't have to worry about "what's for dinner" at the end of each day.
As you can see, meal planning has many benefits, including saving you time, money and helping your family eat healthier. At My Weekly Menu Planner, we offer articles, tips and free tools, including free menu planners and shopping lists [] to help you start saving time and money with menu planning today.
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