I’m going to be honest here. If I never had to make dinner again, it would be too soon. LOL.
After 25 years of marriage and 19 years of motherhood, I’m totally over cooking. Buuuut, it’s important to me to make healthy meals for my husband and kiddos.
That’s why I came up with a meal planning strategy that makes dinner making as simple as possible.
Now, I’ve shopped at Whole Foods for years, but it wasn’t until I came up with this system that cooking and eating healthy also became affordable.
I know what you’re thinking. Whole Foods and affordable in the same sentence? That doesn’t seem possible.
But it is. And now I’m going to share my strategy with you. :)
The Method to My Meal Planning Madness
A Monthly Dinner Menu
While setting up a monthly dinner menu takes some time up front, it will save you so much time and money in the long run.
1. Come up with 15-30 dinner ideas.
I had each of my three kids and my husband give me their 5 favorite meals, and I entered them on a Google doc. That definitely made things easier. ;)
Whenever I see recipes I want to try, I add them to my Pinterest “Dinner Inspiration” board. You can check it out right here. I will usually only make a recipe if it’s quick, easy, healthy and doesn’t have a million ingredients.
A Dinner Calendar
2. Once you have your 15-30 dinner ideas, create a Google calendar called “Dinner”.
(If you’re unfamiliar with Google Calendars, here are the steps for creating a new one.)
Enter your dinner ideas on the calendar and set them to repeat however often you’d like.
I typically have 8 dinners (Sunday-Wednesday because we usually get takeout on Thursdays + Fridays and go out to eat on Saturdays) on a 2-week rotation, so I set each dinner to repeat every two weeks. My husband and kids don’t mind eating the same dinners twice a month, but if your family does, you can increase the number of dinners and decrease the repeat frequency. :)
For Google Calendar repeat steps, check out this page.
Tip: When you’re entering each dinner and setting the repeat frequency, it’s helpful to enter the link to the recipe in the Description area so it’s handy. If you’re super ambitious, you could also cut and paste the ingredients list into the Description area too. LOL.
A Weekly Grocery List
3. Make your weekly grocery list based on that week’s dinners and the other things you need. I use a Google spreadsheet to make my grocery lists (see a sample right here)
I have Whole Foods deliver my groceries each week, and it has saved me SO much time and money. It used to take me at least two hours to grocery shop and would cost $350+.
Now, I look at their weekly sale flyer on Thursday, write my list that night, email it to them on Friday morning and they deliver it Friday afternoon.
By having them deliver, I save myself at least two hours each week. It’s really more than that because I don’t have to reinvent the wheel/grocery list each week. Now I can usually just cut/paste my grocery list from a prior week into a new email, tweak it a bit and send it.
*Update 2019: Since Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon, my local store no longer has an in-house delivery department. Instead, they offer Prime Now delivery for Amazon Prime members, and I use it each week. My experience using Prime Now has been awesome and I would definitely recommend it! I continue to use my dinner menu and grocery lists, and can quickly add items from my “Past Purchases” on Prime Now too!
Since I’m not doing the shopping myself, I’m not tempted to make impulse purchases. My grocery bill is now $200 or LESS each week. That’s HUGE! Over a year, I’ve saved about $1,800!
If you’d like to see a sample of my grocery list and dinner menu, click here.
Tip: If your market doesn’t offer delivery, you can still use this meal planning strategy by making your list according to your weekly dinner menu and the store sales flyer. Print it out and take it with you so you can keep yourself honest by sticking to ONLY what’s on the list. You can also stock up on staples at online stores like Thrive Market and Vitacost.com. They have awesome prices and often offer free delivery.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
4. Look, schedule, make, eat, tweak, repeat :)
- Look for recipes on Pinterest, in magazines, online, etc.
- Schedule them into your Google dinner calendar
- Make your list
- Eat your dinners
- Tweak your menu
- Repeat :)
See how easy that was?