Meal Planning: Less Stress, More Money

Last year I wrote a blog on menu planning and mentioned that my son’s famous first words after we got home at night were, “I’m hungry.” Now that my daughter is two, I have two kiddos telling me this! Therefore, I find meal planning even more important so I can get a healthy meal on the table fast.  Since I find it so helpful, I’d like to share tips for successful meal planning again.

  • Determine what meals you will plan. Since the meal my family eats together is supper that is the meal I spend time to plan. However, you can plan for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks. I go to the grocery store once a week so I plan my meals a week at a time. You might choose to plan them for more or fewer days.
  • Write the plan on a calendar. I write my meal plan on a calendar that hangs in my kitchen. This calendar includes other family activities so I know if we will be gone for a meal at night or have a really rushed evening. My husband knows to look at the calendar to see what we are having. If you use an online calendar for planning activities, you could also write your meals there.
  • Check what you have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards for foods that need to be used up in the next few days. Think of ways to include these items in your meals. I always plan a night to have leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
  • Review the grocery ads for specials you can use. Save money by purchasing items on sale that you can pair with the foods you have on hand to help complete your meals.
  • Keep a list of the recipes your family likes best. Having a list helps make meal planning go really quickly because you can easily spot the recipes that use things you have on hand or are on sale. Some recipes my family likes are Lentil Tacos and Chicken Alfredo Pasta.

To help you get started, check out our Meal Planning Calendar. This week-long menu features recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

How to Plan Meals CALENDAR

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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7 thoughts on “Meal Planning: Less Stress, More Money

  1. This is perfect for the CACFP take ACTION Challenge, hopefully your Food Program Sponsors know of all of these wonderful tools and information.

    Are your child care providers in Iowa using all of these great tools? Looking for more challenges and partner.

  2. Thank you for your comment. We are glad you find the tools and information useful! We have shared the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website with CACFP Food Program Sponsors and also do a training for child care providers related to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. resources.

  3. You should check out It’s a free meal-planning tool that offers the whole year planned, but you can customize it however you like or even build your own from a blank plan. It helps you keep track of your shopping list, lets you print whatever you need, whenever you need it, and even offer a Mobile List that lets you shop from your device. You can use it however you want, whenever you want. You’re in complete control. I LOVE it. Thanks!

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