If you’re new to my blog, you can click the links below to read the previous posts in my Money Monday series.
- New Series: Money Monday
- Discovering Dave Ramsey
- Setting a Budget
- Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps
- The Struggle Is Real
- Meal Planning
In my previous Money Monday post, I discussed meal planning and how essential it is for sticking to a budget. Most everyone makes a grocery list before heading to the store, but that’s just a list of items you need. It’s not a plan. If you don’t have a set grocery budget then you’re bound to buy all the items on your list and then some. We all know how easy that is!—and how expensive it is.
We used to grocery shop at Target with just a list of items in hand, but we always left spending over $100, and it was such a disappointment. Now, I just cannot imagine walking into a store without a meal plan and a grocery list. I am a planner to the core! Failing to plan = Planning to fail.
Let’s review the Basics of Meal Planning:
1. Set a grocery budget
Our grocery budget is set at $40/week for two people. Set a budget that works for you and your family, but remember that you’ll probably need to adjust it a time or two to get it just right. We shop 1 day per week, so sometimes we spend $160/month (4 shop days) or $200/month (5 shop days). There are times when we spend a little over or under $40/week, but never exceed our set monthly amount—even though we reallllly want to sometimes.
It’s important to realize that it’s not just about setting a budget. It’s about sticking to a budget, which takes a great amount of self-discipline. It’s incredibly hard to tell yourself (and your family) no. When we walk into a store, our eyes go wild because we want to buy so.many.things, but we have to silently tell ourselves no and keep moving. I can’t lie—it’s HARD. But, it’s possible.
2. Create a meal plan template
A template is essentially a reusable document—you don’t ever want to save over your template because you want it to remain as is. Anytime you open a template, you’ll want to click save as to save it as a new document. For example, we have our Meal Plan Template, but when I open it up to create a new meal plan, I click save as and enter a new title—the date range for the meal plan (August 8th – 14th).
Create a meal plan template that works for you. Over the years, I’ve used several different templates. I started with a simple Word document, but now use an Excel spreadsheet. You can even use good ol’ pen and paper, if that’s what you’re most comfortable with.
Here’s my very first meal plan (created in Word)—7 meals, no budget. The meals were stellar, but the format…not so much. It did the trick, but it was crowded and not very easy to read.
- Falafel in Pita with Yogurt Sauce
- Chicken Artichoke Panini with Prosciutto and Swiss
- Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno
- Sweet and Spicy Almond Glazed Shrimp Over Cilantro Rice
- Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce and Garlic Rice Pilaf
- Grilled Cheese and Speedy Tomato Soup
- Sweet and Sour Tofu with Cream Avocado White Bean Dip
Do We Need…
- Soy Sauce
- Eggs (~2)
- ½ and ½
- Bread for Grilled Cheese?
Target: Cereal, Bread, Pitas, Truvia, Vanilla Extract, Yogurt, Tofu, Raspberries, Mozzarella Block/Shredded, Parmesan, Sliced Swiss, Sliced Cheddar, Prosciutto, Chicken Breast (Price?), Yogurt, 8oz Plain Yogurt, OJ (Price?), Cooked Shrimp (1lb.) (Price?), Potatoes, Creamy Honey Almond Butter, Honey (8oz.) Chickpeas (2), White Beans (1), Artichokes (in oil?), Petite Diced Tomatoes (1 or 2 10oz. cans), Diced Italian Plum Tomatoes (2-14oz cans), Pineapple Chunks (20oz.), Apricot Preserves (+1 more), Brown Rice, Folgers, Coffee Filters, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds
Safeway: Coffee Creamer, Turkey
- Promos: Strawberries (1lb.), Blueberries (6oz.), Blackberries (6oz.) – (Buy 1 Get 1 Free), Waterfront Bistro Cooked Shrimp ($4.99 lb.), Waterfront Bistro Large Cooked Shrimp ($5 lb.)
Giant: Avocado, 2 Red Bell Peppers, 1 Green Bell Pepper, Garlic, Yellow Onion, Parsley, Cilantro, 1 Lemon, Tomato, Bananas, Milk?, Ciabatta
- Promos: Strawberries (1lb.), Blackberries (6oz.) – 2 for $4, Nature’s Promise Chicken Breast ($3.99 lb.), Super G Chicken Tenders ($2.99 lb.), OJ (2 for $6), Ritz (2 for $5), Nature Made Vitamins (Buy 1 Get 1 Free)
A few months into meal planning, I began using the following format (also created in Word). This format included our weekly budget, the cost of each meal, the actual amount of the meal plan, and the amount for each store.
Meal Plan ($40)
Meal #1 ($9.76)
- Mac & Cheese
- Need to Purchase: Half & Half, Cheddar Cheese (2), Macaroni Pasta
Meal #2 ($2.18)
- Cheesy Pinto & Kale Quesadillas
- Need to Purchase: Tortillas, Cream Cheese
- Brown Rice w/Cucuzza Sauce
- Cauliflower Pasta (leftover sauce)
Pinto Bean Burgers ($8.76)
Need to Purchase: Kale, Brown Rice, Sweet Potatoes (3.5-lbs.), Carrots, Corn
Grocery List ($40.53)
Food Lion ($2.99)
- Kale, Sweet Potatoes ($2/3.5-lbs.)
- Promos: Avocado (2/$1), Sweet Potatoes (59¢/lb.)
- Oats, Coffee, Eggs, Half & Half, Milk, Coffee Creamer, Yogurt, Cheddar Cheese (2), Tortillas, Chili Powder, Macaroni Pasta, Carrots, Celery, Cream Cheese, Bananas, Corn
- Promos: Avocados (69¢), Limes (19¢)
- Brown Rice ($1.78/2-lbs. or $3.34/5-lbs.)
And finally…our current meal plan document.
Steve created our current meal plan template in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s very comprehensive and fits our needs perfectly. At the bottom of the spreadsheet, you’ll notice two additional tabs titled Grocery Item List and Retail Item List. Those are our “behind the scenes” prices—the prices for all the items we purchase are listed in those spreadsheets. Steve created our template as such so that the prices and final cost automatically calculate. Pretty nifty, huh?!
Meal planning is all about finding what works for you. This includes setting your budget and figuring out what meal planning method fits your needs. It’ll definitely take a bit of trial and error, but you’ll find a system that works.
Above all, always remember the following: budget + meal planning + self-discipline = success