Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Tina’s new favorite frugal meal planning tool.
Last month, I shared some favorite grocery apps that can help save money. Served for today’s special is a side dish of Menu Planning! My hubby and I enjoy helping families learn how to budget, live within their means, save, and be good stewards of the resources God has given them. We are often asked for ideas on how to save money while getting out of debt. My hope is that these tips will be helpful for your family as well, in any stage of life. Today, I’ll share easy meal planning ideas to help save time, money, and sanity!
Meal Planning is a big deal. It’s time-consuming and if we don’t plan well, it can be more expensive than it should be.
(If you missed Part 1 about ways to save money on groceries, here it is.)
Create Your Own Frugal Meal Planning Menu Planner
If you’re crafty and have the time to make it, a Hanging Menu Planner is the way to go. Here are some options:
Cork Board Menu:
If you’re like our friend Tia, you might get one made for you! Our friend Kayla made this cute board for Tia’s birthday. She bought a half cork/half dry-erase board at Walmart and decorated it. Tia can hang her eMeals recipe print-outs (more on eMeals below) and write notes for her kids on the other side. Tia says the best part is her kids no longer ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner!?” I love it!
I love the one from Megan at The Homes I Have Made (http://thehomesihavemade.com/magnetic-menu-board-2/). She sells customizable templates for $6, so you just have to gather the supplies, print, and create. I’m working on creating mine!
Pinterest has an overwhelming supply of ideas and options, so just pick one you like and go with it.
Use a Frugal Meal Planning Menu Program
If you’re not so crafty or don’t have time to create, there are another gazillion time-saver menu planning ideas out there. I’ve tested several subscription and non-subscription online, downloadable, and app-based programs. Here are my favorites:
Pinterest “Weekly Meals” Locked Board:
I have a locked Pinterest board that I call “Weekly Meals.” This is the cheapest plan (free), but I do have to make my own grocery list and decide which day to make which meal. First, I pin a recipe to one of my other boards (faves, sides, sweets, etc) and then re-pin the recipes I want to make in the current week to the locked board. (This was not my original idea, I learned it from another blogger. Kudos to her, because it’s one of my favorite options!)
eMeals (My Highest Recommendation!):
Do you want to save money, time, eat well, and not waste food? Or maybe you don’t know how to cook? Then eMeals is for you! It’s by far my favorite of all the online planners. When my husband and I were getting out of debt, we actually saved $200/month on groceries by using eMeals! That’s just for two of us–we’ve heard of families saving a whole lot more than that. They have a wide variety of plans for different diets (classic, gluten-free, diabetic, vegetarian, paleo, budget friendly, simple gourmet, etc). They plan the meals and shopping around sales at your local grocery store. When they have you buy an ingredient for one meal, that ingredient will be used up in another meal, so it limits waste. (Is there anything in your fridge right now that you bought for one recipe, and haven’t used it since? Then you really need to check this out!)
Even paying $5/month for a one year subscription, which includes a free phone app, we still saved $200, and I no longer stressed about what to cook or how to cook it. Back to our friends, Kayla and Tia. They both started using eMeals for their families this month. Neither of them had previous experience with cooking much more than frozen pizza, but with this plan, they can cook! Shopping is made easy with a categorized grocery list; recipes are simple and easy to follow. You can occasionally find a Groupon to reduce the cost even further. Here’s one for a 6-month subscription: https://www.groupon.com/deals/emeals-12-little-rock. I can’t say enough about it! Here’s the link to eMeals website – there are free sample menus you can print & try it out! http://emeals.com/
Plan to Eat (My New Favorite):
I can save my pinned Pinterest recipes, edit and rate them, as well as any recipe I add via online or hard copy. The menu planner is stellar and the grocery list is superb. These guys have really thought of everything. Their pricing is reasonable too. Oh, and if your friends use it too, you can share any recipes you’ve uploaded or keep them in your secret recipes box. SO fun! My goal is to use Plan to Eat with my new Magnetic Menu Board to complement each other!