Feeding your family doesn’t have to be stressful, time-consuming, or expensive. Follow these 5 Simple Meal Planning Tips to Save Time, Money & Sanity!
This post is sponsored by Ibotta. All opinions and text are 100% my own.
School is starting this month and it’s time to get back on a schedule and be more productive with our time. It’s a great time to make new resolutions and start new routines. One of the biggest obstacles out there for families is meal planning because it’s not always done or it’s just not done properly. Here are 5 simple ways to conquer meal planning so you can keep your family well fed, stick to your budget, and not lose your mind.
5 SIMPLE MEAL PLANNING TIPS TO SAVE TIME, MONEY & SANITY
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5 Simple Meal Planning Tips
1. Plan meals around what you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
Planning meals that use what you have not only prevents waste but also saves you money because you’ll be buying fewer ingredients. Plus, if you fail to look through your fridge before you plan, you might end up buying duplicates or just add more to your fridge, pushing things further toward the back, making it more likely that they’ll not be eaten before they expire. Things like Teriyaki Chicken & Vegetables and Meatball Veggie Ramen are great ways to use up any leftover vegetables in your crisper. You can really use whatever vegetables you want in these dishes so it’s best to just use and eat up what you have, right? Clean out the fridge and save money by planning meals with ingredients you already have.
2. Have Theme Nights
Having a theme for each night of the week helps to spark meal ideas as well as help you narrow down recipes for your weekly meal plans. Having various themes also really helps to add variety to the types of food and seasonings you’re using. This is nice because you’re getting a well-rounded diet and you won’t get bored. Eating isn’t just about not being hungry, it’s for enjoyment! Here’s a sample themed meal plan template of mine:
3. Plan for meals that use ingredients that are on sale or you can get cash back on.
You don’t need to go over the top with this. I know serious couponing can take hours but I’ve found I can still save quite a bit by just spending 5 minutes looking through the store’s weekly ad and on the Ibotta app, looking through offers to get cash back on items I was already in need of.
Ibotta is a free app that allows you to earn cash back on everyday products at the stores you’re already shopping at (in person or online) like Target, Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Overstock, Amazon… You can even get an additional $10 Cash Back just for earning your first $10 from offers in the app. Yes, please! I’d be happy to get twice the amount of money back.
All you have to remember is to keep and scan the receipt. It’s best to do this right when you get home and are unloading the groceries. You only have 7 days to scan the receipt and you do need to scan some of the barcodes on the items.
You can see that from this grocery trip I was able to earn cash back on the BBQ sauce ($1, for the Pulled Pork), pasta sauce ($1, for the Pizza Pasta Bake), and avocados ($.25, for the Taco Salad) I needed for that week’s meal plan. I also found offers for granola bars for afternoon snacks, yogurt for breakfast, and bread for lunches. In total, I earned $6.25 cash back. I’ll take!
**All offers were valid as of publishing date. Don’t forget to check your Ibotta app for details as offers change frequently and may not be available in all areas.**
4. Create a place to save your favorite recipes and potential recipes.
If you’re more of a paper person you can make a binder or you can just make a couple Pinterest boards for each theme night that you have. Google docs also works great for holding onto your own family recipes. When it comes time to plan your meals, go to your recipe collection to fill in your calendar.
5. Plan for leftovers.
You can save yourself from a whole night of cooking by having a day where you eat up all the leftovers from the previous meals made that week. Half the family might be eating leftovers from Monday and the other eating leftovers from Tuesday but at least everyone is fed, enjoys the food, and you’re cleaning out your fridge and saving money all at the same time. If your family did happen to eat every meal entirely and you don’t end up having enough leftovers, you can have a few simple backup meals that use shelf stable ingredients so you don’t waste any food by not eating it and also so you can always have it on hand. My go-to meal for when we don’t have leftovers has always been Crock-Pot Mexican Chicken or Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. They’re easy and they use ingredients that we always keep on hand.
To sum up the meal planning process, follow these steps:
- Go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry and write down what you need to use up before it expires and keep note of what you could use instead of buying.
- Look through your local store’s weekly ad to see what is on sale and go through the Ibotta app and see what everyday ingredients you could earn cash back on. Write down items that you’re interested in and add the offers you’re interested in to your “My Offers” in the Ibotta app.
- Go to your recipe collection and find recipes that fit with your themes, use up the ingredients you jotted down that are going to expire, as well as use some of the items on sale and are available for cash back offers on Ibotta.
- Go through the recipes in detail and make your grocery list. Be sure to go back and look at your freezer and pantry to make sure you’re not buying things you already have.
- Grocery shop and then scan your receipt into Ibotta to claim your cashback offers.
- Relax, cook, and eat!
No more waiting until 5 pm to decide what to eat for dinner. No more wasting and throwing out tons of food. Just lots of saving and earning cash back. I am sure that if you follow these 5 Simple Meal Planning Tips to Save Time, Money, and Sanity, you surely will. Start meal planning and download the free Ibotta app and start earning your cash back today. Happy meal planning!