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Finally, a Meal Plan That Works!

Meal Plan

If you have been following the goings on at the Red Cottage for very long, you will know that I have struggled with keeping my grocery budget in check.  You may remember my attempt at once a month grocery shopping!

With a goal to be completely debt free in under four years (mortgage included) it has become imperative that I find a system that works to keep food costs in check.

Well, ladies and gentleman, I think I have found it!  Finally, a meal plan that works for us!

This past Christmas I had on my wish list a large (desk size) day planner.  Nothing fancy, just one that had a month at a glance, as well as 2 page per week view.  I got this pretty one from Target.

Meal Planning

Each week I gather up the 2 or 3 food circulars with overall best deals for the week, mini Post-It notes in different colors, a note pad, pen, my planner and a beverage (and a few treats!).  I also have my iPad handy, and any recipes I have in mind for the week.

I use a different color sticker for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and place them along the bottom of each day of the week.  (I also have a different color sticky for my blog posts).  Using sticky note tabs makes it easy to just move the meals around if our schedules change.

Easy Meal Plan

I simply write each meal on the appropriate sticky based on family favorite meals, recipes I have found on Pinterest or in magazines, and some meals that don’t need a recipe at all such as the nachos and cheese for lunch next Saturday!  I have to plan every meal, every day, and include snacks and any blog baking I am planning.  That was always my downfall, only planning dinners and then trying to scrape together something for lunches which always ended up in vending machine fast food lunches.

Snacks were all point of contention.  If The Mr. wanted an evening snack while watching a hockey game and there was nothing available, it would result in a trip to the grocery store and more than just a snack purchased.

Our Meal Plan

I then make my grocery list based on these recipes.  I am always surprised how many items I already have on hand!  Referencing my grocery flyers as I go, I compile my list.  I also take advantage of any “loss leaders” that are deep discounted and stock up as my weekly budget allows.  I have even managed to stay a bit under budget on one occasion.

Meal Planning

I know that it is suggested to make your meal plan around sales in the circulars, but that method just doesn’t work for me.  It seems as soon as I perceive “restrictions” on my meal plan, all my best intentions go out the window and I feel resentment about having to plan “around” what is on sale!  I know, crazy right.  But it is the way I roll!

So, the entire process takes me about an hour and the result is well worth the effort.  I written grocery list based on a realistic food budget.  A solid meal plan with a variety of meals made from scratch with real ingredients.  I do use a few “convenience” items such as bbq sauce, or canned tomatoes, but overall I know what is going into my food and that makes me happy.  I don’t have to spend each day dreading the “what’s for dinner?” which makes me REALLY happy.  But, best of all is the one trip to the grocery stores only once a week!

Here is a look at the final plan! Organized and colourful!

My meal planner

The nice thing about this day planner is that the front and back covers are clear plastic.  And, since I also keep track of bill payment due dates, blog planning, birthdays, anniversaries, and appointments, I keep it in the kitchen for quick daily reference!  When a meal is a favorite or I know it is easy to repeat, I simply put that sticky tab on the inside back cover of the planner and re-use as necessary.

Till next time….,

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  1. It looks like you’ve worked out a great system that will work for you. That’s a really great idea to use note tabs since you’re planning so many meals and snacks along with every other thing that needs to be remembered and done on a weekly/monthly basis. I like it. Great job!!! (I just might revise my own system to something similar to yours.) 🙂

  2. I love how this looks! I think this sounds like a great system. I’m like you – I hate trying to plan meals around sales. I much prefer to find the dishes first and then set up the grocery list based on that. Have you found it easy to keep up this system over the long term?

    1. Thanks Nancy! I have found this pretty easy over time! It is really easy to add a new meal idea to the rotation, and when we are getting bored of something I just put the sticky tab away until I want to rotate it back in!