Hi! I'm Sydney, a stay-at-home mom of three, and I make homemade meals for my Colorado family every week.
With three kids under 8, meal prep and meal planning are essential in my house. Figuring out all the meals ahead of time allows me to save time and stick to a budget each week. For a long time, that budget was $100 per week — but I've recently had to increase it to $120.
Still, each weekend — with that budget in mind — I plan all my family's meals for the upcoming week. This includes choosing the recipes I will make plus the actual shopping. I cook pretty much every meal every day due to a severe peanut allergy in my household. We don't rely on much takeout for this reason.
When planning each week, I start by looking at my local grocery store's weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.
With meal planning, up-front preparation is key — but it's also the most challenging thing. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use each week:
1) I pick recipes with ingredients that can be used for multiple meals (and in multiple ways). This also includes getting creative with leftovers. Sometimes, eating leftovers all the time can get old, but I try to remember that I can always use different components of my leftovers to create new meals.
2) I prioritize what's on sale. For example, this week I was able to find chicken and eggs on sale — and much of my produce was on sale.
3) Clip your digital coupons! You can find lots of additional savings by clipping digital coupons (found on store websites or apps). Some items may not be on sale, but could have great savings with a coupon. Conversely, some of the advertised sales state that you need the digital coupon to take advantage. This is easy to miss, especially if you're shopping in store. When you look at the fine print, you often see that even though the item is advertised as "on sale," if you don't have that digital coupon clipped, the price can be a lot more expensive!
4) I buy the cheapest store brand most of the time. Unless it's something that I'm unable to use due to the peanut allergy, an item I absolutely love (or if a different brand is on sale), store brand it is.
5) I ask my kids to help me! Feeding kids is a challenge. They change their minds constantly, and they seemingly get new taste buds every meal. When I ask them to help pick out recipes (usually with them looking at pictures), I find that they are more excited to eat them.