Meal planning is just one of those things I do. I’ve always loved the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This reminds me of the time before I started meal planning. Of course, before I had kids this was no big deal! We could whip something up or order something on a whim. Now that I have two sweet and very hungry, may I add, little boys I need to know what is going into the oven before “HANGRY TIME” happens.
Oh yes, my friends, there was a time I was way less organized. A time when I had two kids under two and I was pulling my hair out just thinking about making dinner. At that time, I needed a way to make things go a bit smoother in our household. The chaos of dinner time was real (and scary)!
That’s when I had a brilliant -not so new idea – to start meal planning. I’ve always been a budget-conscious person and I would make sure I had enough food for the week, but now I needed to take it to another level. I now had four hungry mouths to feed so I decided to meal plan for two weeks at a time. This saved me from going to a store with two kids more than twice a month. If you are a busy mom, you know exactly why I want to avoid the store with kids!
Why Meal Plan?
Meal planning, as mentioned above, will save your sanity as a parent. However, another HUGE reason to meal plan is one thing I LOVE – saving money. You may think using meal planning is a waste and won’t really save you much, but I have literally slashed my grocery bill in half by using some careful planning. The best part is, it only took me around 30 minutes to plan out two weeks worth of meals and complete a grocery list. It may take your more time the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it is easy peasy. Here are some ways meal planning will save you a ton:
- Less shopping – less time in the store, less purchased
- Using a list – using a list helps you stop randomly throwing things in your cart
- Less waste – plan with what you already have and go from there
- Less take out – no more Chinese food and pizza runs
Suggested Reading: $40 Meal Plan Your Family Will Love
Fall Meal Plan
Now that you know why I meal plan – and you should too – let’s go ahead and get started. Below you will find a meal plan I have used several times and my kids will eat all of the meals. Picky eaters are NO FUN! This meal plan is meant for the Fall with some comfort foods to warm your hearts and houses (use a crockpot. Make sure to grab your free meal planning template and jot down your meals or use mine listed below:
Suggested Reading: Budget-Friendly Two Week Dinner Meal Plan: Under $75
- Sloppy Joe’s – You will need buns, ground beef or turkey and a can of Sloppy Joe mix (I like Manwich).
- Chili – Use my Ultimate Budget chili recipe and spice it up to your liking!
- Chili leftovers – This is one meal that tastes better as leftovers!
- Homemade mac & cheese – Check out this super easy, frugal mac and cheese recipe from Two Kids and A Coupon.
- Grilled cheese & soup – This is a fall favorite in our house. Pick your favorite can of soup and make up a yummy grilled cheese for dipping.
- Bean burrito rice – We LOVE bean burritos and they are so easy to make. Just heat up a can of refried beans, cook up some white rice and add some cheese or your favorite toppings. My kids eat them up!
- Tacos – Since we already have the wraps, we might as well make another Mexican dish. You will need ground beef, taco seasoning, cheese and your favorite toppings. Enjoy!! (If your kids like the LEGO movie, you may want to make this on Taco Tuesday.)
Suggested Reading: How to do a Week’s Worth of Summer Budget Meals that Rock
- Veggies & noodles – My kids love plain noodles (don’t ask me why???) so spaghetti noodles work great. Cook up some veggies and chicken to toss the noodles for the grown-ups and put the kids as a side dish. We all know kids do not like their food mixed together or touching!
- Homemade margarita pizza – Whip up a pizza crust using this easy recipe from the Food Network and then add cheese and tomatoes. Sprinkle with whatever Italian seasoning you have in the cupboard (basil will work or a mix). Let the kids help you make this one. My kids LOVE making pizza.
- Fish veggies – I usually buy the healthy version of Gorton’s fish when on sale and then add Simply Balanced veggies such as corn or broccoli as a side.I also let me kids help me make a box of Jiffy cornbread muffin mix. They Love any kind of muffin and I get the Jiffy mix on sale for $.50! SCORE
- Tuna noodle – Check out this easy, frugal recipe here. My son has always loved tuna noodle and it is super easy to make.
- Black bean quesadilla – Use the rest of your wraps to make a yummy quesadilla! Black beans are healthy and you only need three ingredients to make this – Black beans, and cheese. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!
- Goulash – I especially love making a big pot of tasty food that makes my house smell good and I can eat the leftovers the next day. Cook noodles and Brown ground beef, onion, and seasonings (salt, pepper, can add garlic powder and Italian seasoning if desired) – Next add elbow macaroni, tomato sauce and 1 tbsp of butter. Cook for around 20 minutes and serve!
- Leftovers – Goulash leftovers taste amazing with cheese on top!
Suggested Reading: The Ultimate Fall Slow Cooker Recipes Roundup – 20 Seriously Good Recipes
Let’s break down your grocery list and pricing. Keep in mind, some meals you will use the same ingredients such as wraps for tacos and quesadillas. You will also have cheese from your tacos that can be used in the quesadillas! Ready to go shopping? Here is your list!
On Hand: Flour for Mac & Cheese
4 1 lb packs of ground beef or ground turkey ($12) – I usually buy my ground beef at Target Super Store and they often have sales such as buy one get one 50% off or 5% off on the Cartwheel app! Just a few more ideas to save!
1 pack of butter or margarine ($1)
1/2 gallon of milk ($2)
16 oz. Shredded or cheddar cheese ($2)
Cheese slices of your choice for grilled cheese ($2)
16 oz. Shredded Mexican blend or cheddar blend for your tacos, quesadillas ($2)
16 oz. Shredded mozzarella cheese ($2)
Manwich sauce ($1)
1 Large canned diced tomato ($2)
Kidney Beans ($1)
Tomato Sauce ($1)
2 – 16 oz. bag or box of elbow macaroni ($2)
Refried beans ($1)
White Rice ($2)
Taco Seasoning ($.50)
Spaghetti noodles ($1)
1 box Rotini ($1)
1 can mushroom soup ($1)
1 Can peas ($1)
1 can black beans ($1)
pizza sauce ($1)
2 frozen veggies of your choice ($3)
1 bag Gorton’s Fish ($3.50)
1 large onion (will split between two recipes) $1
1 Green Pepper ($2)
1 tomato or 2 small Roma tomatoes ($1)
Yeast pack ($1)
Grand Total: $58.00
Save Even More:
But wait…I have a Target REDcard and I receive 5% off all of my purchases at the register. This brings my total down to $55.10! This is an amazing price for two weeks worth of dinner!
Want even more savings? Look up your items on the Target Cartwheel app. The Target Brands such as Market Pantry and Simply Balanced are always in the app. Furthermore, I never leave home without my Cartwheel app! To learn more check out my Target saving secrets here. Don’t forget you can stack Target coupons on top of the app savings! Just check the Target website before you shop and print any relevant coupons. They often have $3/15 Market Pantry or Simply balanced brand coupon. This is where the real deal savings come in at Target.
You may also stack Target coupons with manufacturer coupons. Print coupons easily at coupons.com, one of my favorite coupon sites!
Another trick is to use Ibotta! Ibotta – Ibotta is an awesome money-saving app that allows you to receive rebates for stuff you already buy. All you have to do is find your store and search the available rebates for that week. Once you find your rebates, start shopping. Next, send your receipt by taking a picture and uploading it which is super easy. I suggest doing this right when you get home from the store so you do not forget. It is as easy as taking a simple picture and clicking your rebates! Ibotta has recently added some online shopping to their app as well, so you have more options. Use my link and receive a $10 sign up bonus when you redeem your first rebate! Read more about Ibotta here: Ibotta, Awesome Rebate and Money Making App.
Also, don’t be afraid to use store brand products. I buy Market Pantry, Archer Farms, and Simply Balanced at Target and can attest to the quality. If you shop at Kroger or Meijer their store brand is usually way cheaper and is still good quality as well.
To make meal planning even easier, check out $5 Meal Plan. This is a meal planning service that will send your weekly meal plans of low-cost meals your family will love. They offer a 14-day free trial!
Suggested Reading: Budget-Friendly Meal Plan
Suggested Reading: Chili: Fall Budget Meal – Under $4
Use meal planning to save time and money, not to mention your sanity. Try doubling this meal plan and you will only have to go to the store once this month which is a HUGE lifesaver if you have little ones. Remember, the less you are in the store, the less temptation there is to buy extra items.
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Take care – Sarah