What if I told you I have a simple way you can save thousands of dollars every year? What if I told you it only took a few hours of planning?
Menu plans save you big money. Cooking and eating at home can save you thousands of dollars every year. THOUSANDS. With my menu plan for the year it makes it simple to save big on meal planning, and you may just find yourself eating healthier as a result.
We’re now on our 4th year of year long menu planning and I’m thrilled to share 2015’s menu plan and template with you. Not only is it newly redesigned and simplified, but I’m sharing some big changes we’re making in 2015 and how I’ll be sharing our menus each week.
How did our year long menu plan start?
In 2012 I made a resolution to eat more at home to not only save money, but to get healthier too. To make it simple I made a year long meal plan. It took a few hours to put together-but then I was set for the entire year. I could tweak our meals seasonally, change it up based on what was on sale, or if I had something that needed to be cooked I could change up the menu. Having a meal plan to rely on without having to think about it at all was (and is) a huge time and sanity saver.
I kept myself accountable on the blog by posting weekly meal plans and what worked and didn’t. I was honest about when we opted to get takeout or eat out even when it wasn’t in the plan. Even with a lot of travel, fails, and times we relied on takeout we slashed our overall food spending and saved over $4,000!
In 2013 I shared an updated meal plan. I sat down and tallied up our savings for 2013 and found that by tweaking our menu and adjusting things we were able to shave an additional $1,500 off our food budget! That’s a total savings of over $5,500 even while our kids (and their appetites) were growing! To say I’m hooked on meal planning now is an understatement.
In 2014 I again repeated the year long meal plan. We added in some times the kids were in charge of the menu, too. While it didn’t work out every week as I planned it certainly helped them build their skills and allowed me to play ‘helper’ instead of head chef.
I’m happy to say that despite added dietary restrictions, increases in food costs, and kids that are teens and tweens (and eat like they have bottomless stomachs) we were able to come in under 2013’s budget by over $500. That’s over $6,000 in savings EVERY YEAR. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Printable Meal Plan for 2015
Now you need to have 28 meals that repeat. It may sound like a lot but it breaks down simply.
Choose nights that are static such as Taco Tuesday, Fries (and burgers) Friday. We have ‘Taco Wednesday’ (it works even if it’s not alliteration), and ‘Homemade Pizza Night’ on Fridays. Choose your own weekly repeats of the meals your family could eat every night. That will bring you down to 20 meal slots left.
Clean out the Fridge Night
Next include one leftover night each week. We call that ‘clean out the fridge night’ because we’ll also put out food like yogurt that is reaching its’ expiration date or hummus that needs to be eaten. Choose the night before you go shopping, or two evenings prior so you can also use that time cleaning out the fridge to make a grocery list for the following week. That will bring you down to between 16 meals left to fill in.
New Recipe Night
Now pick one night a week to dedicate to trying new recipes. I’m putting this in the dinner slot the day after we go grocery shopping. That way we can purchase fresh ingredients to use for our new recipes. That puts you at 12.
Now simply add in your family’s favorite recipes. These tried and true recipes are the ones you turn to time and again. They don’t have to be complicated. Baked chicken and your Nana’s quiche recipe don’t need to be fussed with to be enjoyed.
Note: If you only have a few family favorites you can repeat them for now until you find new family favorites that earn a spot on new recipe night.
See? That wasn’t so bad was it?
Another benefit of this menu plan is that your grocery shopping list remains pretty static. You can create grocery lists for each week without having to rewrite it each week. Simply make a document or use the notes feature on your smartphone and include everything you need for week 1, 2, 3, and 4. You can add your new recipe ingredients and other personal care items to your list and you’re set.
For more Menu Planning ideas see:
- Weekly Menus from past years
- Centsible recipe page
- Ideas for healthy lunches
- Ways to pack snacks for big savings
Stay tuned for a post next week about lunch ideas for both adults and kids to help you save even more. And be sure to check back tomorrow for our family’s menu for the year.