Going gluten-free and feeling overwhelmed? Learn quick tips to help you survive the first week of starting a gluten-free diet and lifestyle! Eating gluten-free is not easy, but these tips will make switching to a gluten free lifestyle easier.…
Gluten Free Living
When it comes to eating Gluten-Free and healthy, the name of the money-saving game is HOMEMADE.
Buying gluten-free foods already made in the store will usually cost you a pretty penny (and an ugly penny, too).
If you’re like me and are striving to eat healthy, gluten free, and not go broke, it means you’re going to need to make a lot of foods from scratch.
When I first started on my gluten-free journey, I started to think I might not be able to afford to feel better by not eating gluten. Gluten-free eating was getting ridiculously expensive, and I had actual thoughts of, “maybe I should just buy regular bread and deal with the stomach pains.”
If you’ve wondered if you can afford to eat gluten free on a budget, I’m here as proof that you can
And I’m absolutely rooting for you and wanting to give as many tips as possible so you can live a healthy life and feel great...without going broke!
One of the biggest hurdles in the beginning of this journey is investment. When money is tight, the last thing you want to do is buy a bunch of expensive stuff. I get that. 100 million percent.
But investing some money up front will seriously save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Before getting into the tools you’ll need, my first tip as you begin this journey is to prepare yourself mentally
Your health is worth it.
Feeling better is worth it.
Eating good, nutritious, homemade food is worth it.
It’s worth all of the time, energy, thought, and investment.
As a mom, feeding my family really does take up a huge portion of my time. We have a family of six. Granted, one is currently nursing, but that still means I’m feeding her and giving my time (maybe even more so than the rest!).
Everyone needs food.
Because homemade food is healthier and can be made gluten free while sticking to a budget, I spend a lot of time making food that I used to just buy.
I seriously used to cry about it.
There once was a time when I’d buy spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce and enchilada sauce. In the beginning of making these myself, I almost hated it. I just wanted to go buy a can. But I knew that making all these various sauces myself would save money and would ensure there were no hidden nasty ingredients (now I’d so much rather make it and I totally cringe when I have to buy it on trips away).
I want you to know that this is a hard switch in the beginning. You may have an easier time than I did, but in general, making things yourself can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out.
But it’s worth it in the end. All of the learning, the hard work, and the investment pays off.
I love having the skills to make many things from scratch, and you will, too. It’s empowering.
The tools of the trade
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in.
To save money and start the gluten-free journey, these are kitchen must-haves. These are tools that will help prepare your kitchen to feed and nurture your family.
1. Kitchen mixer
Having a kitchen mixer will change your gluten-free life. I use mine nearly every single day. From breads to muffins to breakfast cookies, having a kitchen mixer makes a lot of recipes do-able. So many gluten-free bread recipes require xanthan or guar gum as a binder. This actually works best when it’s beat on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes. And THAT works best with a kitchen mixer, in my book. I just don’t have the arm strength for that. But if you have arms like Thor, you might be able to skip this one…nah, I’d still say the kitchen mixer is better.
What’s in my kitchen: Artisan KitchenAid Mixer
2. Silicone baking mats
Healthy (and maybe sometimes unhealthy) cookies, biscuits, pizza crust, and hamburger buns all need to be baked on either parchment or reusable silicone mats. My silicone mats get a ton of use. Gluten-free baking is a bit (ok, a lot) stickier than normal baking, and silicone will come in handy. Parchment paper also works great, but silicone mats are reusable and will save you a bunch of money in the long (and short) run.
What’s in my kitchen: Amazon Basics Silicone Mats
3. Food processor
My husband loves to remind me of how this is one of my favorite appliances. He told me YEARS ago that I should get one and I always poo-pood him because I didn’t want one more appliance filling space in my kitchen. But he was right. I needed one. This baby gets used weekly, if not daily, to puree vegetables (check out a great trick to extend meat in this post), make homemade peanut butter, shred cheese (because blocked cheese is almost always cheaper), and make my favorite homemade lara bars. This appliance will definitely save you time, which is extremely valuable as a mom who is now making a lot of food from scratch.
What’s in my kitchen: Hamilton Beach Food Processor
4. Storage containers, and lots of them
This really is a multi-faceted must.
As you start stocking up on gluten free necessities, you need ample containers to store it all in. When saving money on gluten-free foods, you’ll want to buy a lot of things in bulk. I reuse protein powder containers for things like rice flour, potato starch, and oatmeal.
You’ll also need containers to store prepped food and chopped vegetables to help make your life easier. Baking in bulk can also save you time, so having ways to store and freeze extra loaves of bread or pie crusts is essential to a well-oiled gluten-free kitchen.
What’s in my kitchen: Durahome plastic containers, Anchor Hocking containers, 16 oz mason jars, half gallon mason jars, and recycled protein powder canisters.
5. Quality pans and baking dishes
This goes for anyone who cooks in their kitchen on a regular basis, gluten-free or not. But it’s certainly worth mentioning here. Because you’ll want to cook most of your meals, having pots and pans of good quality are important.
One thing I grew up not knowing was that not all non-stick pots and pans are actually good for you. Many are coated with a toxic film that can leach and chip, and then be ingested.
Cast iron and glass are good options that are easy to cook with once you get the hang of them. My cast irons skillets are, like, my favorite present I’ve ever gotten. They’re non-stick when cared for properly, and whatever they do leach into your food is actually good for you! Hey-O iron!
For a family of now six, here’s how many of each thing I have:
- 1 large pot
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 cast iron wok
- 1 12 inch cast iron skillet
- 1 10 inch cast iron skillet
- 2 bread pans
- 2 8×8 baking dishes
- 2 9×13 baking dishes
- 2 pie pans
- 2 cookie sheets
What’s in my kitchen: Tramontina cast iron skillets, Imusa cast iron wok, Pyrex bread pans, Pyrex pie pans, Pyrex baking dishes, Chefmate cookie sheets (these are no longer available, but when I purchase new ones I will be getting these ones)
6. Really good knives
When spending large amounts of time chopping vegetables and preparing healthy, nutritious, homemade food, a really nice set of knives will be a God-send. Investing in a good set of knives now will save you frustration, time, and maybe even a finger. Whenever I stay somewhere for a few days, I’m always tempted to bring my knife set with me. I love them and now I hate using cheap-o ones that just aren’t efficient.
Investing in quality knives is pretty expensive up front. I’ve been on a tight budget and know how this sort of investment just isn’t possible some times. If you’re in that position, I recommend buying at least one really good vegetable knife like this one. Also, keep your eye out for knife sets on sites like OfferUp and Craigslist. Sometimes people part with some really nice knives! I’d certainly start by looking there.
What’s in my kitchen: Cutco Knife set
7. Digital thermometer
Because gluten free bread will sink if it’s under baked, which makes it dense and gummy, it’s important to know when it’s fully done (usually around 200 degrees F). Having a thermometer will make things go more smoothly. It’s also really important for making yogurt or cheeses if that’s something you plan to delve in to.
What’s in my kitchen: Digital waterproof thermometer
8. Silicone spatulas
Again, sticky, sticky. Gluten-free doughs are just sticky. Silicone spatulas are awesome. They’re one piece so they’re ridiculously easy to clean, and they help manage all of the sticky endeavors I put them through. Get yourself some.
What’s in my kitchen: Allwin Silicone Spatula Set
9. Coffee grinder (for spices)
I’m not even joking…we’ve had our coffee grinder for nearly ten years. It’s on the cheap side when it comes to coffee grinders, but we use it for more than just grinding coffee. Having a coffee grinder to grind up flax seeds and various other spices makes things simple. I use quite a bit of ground flaxseed in my baking for nutritional boost and to substitute eggs in some recipes. It goes great in so many gluten-free recipes to add a whole grain flavor. Freshly ground flaxseed is the best, so I use this coffee grinder to grind mine every week instead of purchasing pre-ground flaxseed (which is also more expensive, too! SO saving money here, y’all)
What’s in my kitchen: Mr. Coffee Coffee Bean Grinder
We use our blender to make sauces, soup bases, blender pancakes, dutch baby pancakes, and of course, smoothies. Having a decent blender makes so many gluten-free foods easy and quick. Again, time is super important as a mom (period), but especially as a mom who is making foods from scratch. You’ll want a high powered blender. Even though the cost is more up front, it ought to last you many, many years.
The first blender I got after our wedding was a really inexpensive blender. After making a smoothie one morning, I noticed my smoothie was extra chunky. I thought there were big ice chunks at first. After trying to crunch one, I found out it was actually plastic from the blender itself. Insert panic. Yuck. I still bought another cheap blender after that because I really didn’t want to spend more money. But after the next cheap blender died within a few months, I bit the bullet. We invested in our blender and I’m still using it seven years later without it needing any new parts. This thing is an ice-crushing machine.
What’s in my kitchen: VitaMix Drink Machine
When building your kitchen tool kit, grow it slowly
You don’t need to run out and buy all of these items right now before you can start cooking gluten-free. I know I couldn’t have done that in the beginning, either! I do suggest setting aside money and buying one or two items a month until you have the things you need.
Make a list of what you already have, what items you need, and what the items cost. Start budgeting now!
Look for second-hand items in good condition
It’s wise to check local thrift store and second-hand places to see if you can score an awesome deal. In the western world we live in abundance. Many people get appliances for Christmas gifts, rarely use them, and then donate or sell them for next to nothing. One of my friends is gluten intolerant and couldn’t make her own breads because she didn’t own a kitchen mixer. We were able to find one for her that was practically new on OfferUp for a much more reasonable price than buying one brand new!
My last tip with kitchen tools is to keep them off your counter space as much as possible
With the larger counter appliances, the only one I actually keep on my counter is the KitchenAid mixer. It’s just too dang heavy to get out and put away every day for use. But that’s it. I store my blender and food processor in my cupboard. It literally takes me 5 extra seconds to get them in and out.
My kitchen has limited space (and maybe yours does too?). Storing my appliances off of my counter space frees up the space I do have for all the cooking and baking I’m actually doing. Having a clutter-free counter really puts me at ease and I love being in my kitchen!
So, I highly recommend decluttering your counters if your kitchen bothers you. If you can’t stand being in there because of the mess, try making space in an easy-access cupboard for some of the appliances.
Extra related tip: Don’t have a “junk drawer” or a spot where papers pile up. If you don’t need to use it in the kitchen, get it out of the kitchen.
I certainly hope that this post was helpful for you as you begin to eat a healthy and gluten-free diet.
To recap, take time to mentally prepare for the good work you’ll be doing! Investing in your health by cooking food in your kitchen pays off. Second, investing in the tools that will save you time and money will also pay off.
Want to jump in to an easy gluten free recipe? Give these scones a try!
How to eat healthy gluten-free food on a budget
Learn how to eat gluten free on a budget! I share the ways we save money (as a family of 6) while eating a healthy gluten free diet. These simple tips will keep you on budget while eating healthy and gluten-free meals.
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in. I so appreciate your support)
Keeping that gluten-free food budget in check
I’ll never forget that moment. I’m sure my eyeballs were popping an inch out of my head as I stared in disbelief at the grocery checkout.
The lady at the register stared blankly back at me, clearly unconcerned or unaware of my inner panic-attack.
My eyes frantically looked at the bottom of the receipt. Yep. I didn’t misunderstand her.
This was almost the entirety of my monthly budget at the time, and those groceries would not make it through two weeks, let alone a month.
Gluten-free foods can be exorbitant. They can break the bank and they can sabotage your healthy, gluten free, change-your-life goals.
Saving money on gluten-free foods is possible
Since that wake up call 8 years ago, we have learned how to save over $600 a month on grocery and household items.
Our monthly budget is now $450 for our family of 6. But that doesn’t just include food. That includes everything for household supplies.
Beauty products, cleaning supplies, toilet paper.
And we do it on one income.
Being a stay at home mom is important to our family. My husband has a good job (that we’re very thankful for), but it is not a two-person income by any means. We have had to learn to steward the money we have wisely. It has meant sacrificing certain luxuries and giving up unimportant extras to keep me home.
But it has also meant getting smart about what foods we buy, what foods we make, and how to get the most bang out of our buck.
This post will give you some applicable ways to keep your grocery budget low each month so that you are able to provide the things that are important for your family.
Top tips to go gluten-free on a budget
1. Make breads from scratch
Some of the most expensive things to buy are gluten free breads. Cakes, sandwich bread, bagels, rolls. All of these will cost double, if not quadruple what regular store-bought breads cost.
A very small loaf of gluten-free bread from almost anywhere will cost you at least $5.99. I can make a bigger, better tasting loaf, with healthier ingredients, for about $1.50.
Buying gluten free biscuits, pancakes, bagels, rolls, etc will suck up too much of your grocery budget. If you don’t want to eliminate them from your diet (I know I don’t!), start making them from scratch.
Tip: When making quick bread recipes, all you have to do is replace regular flour with a gluten free flour blend.
Here are some of my favorite bread recipes:
- Perfect fluffy dinner rolls (can be used for hamburger or hotdog buns too!)
- The BEST sandwich bread
- Healthy & filling breakfast cookies
- Cinnamon raisin bread
- Healthy fudgy blender muffins
- Heavenly cranberry-orange scones
2. Invest in the right kitchen appliances
If you’re going to be making gluten free meals from scratch, it becomes pretty important to have the right tools.
I do tend to take a minimalist approach to things, so I pair down my appliances to just a few that really make my life easier and are worth the investment and the space in my small kitchen.
Here are some quick tips to get you started cooking gluten-free meals from scratch
- Create your own gluten free all-purpose flour blend.
You can use it 1-for-1 in almost any regular cake, cookie, biscuit, or pancake recipe with great results. It might change your life like it changed mine.
- Do not use this flour or any gluten-free flour in a regular yeast bread recipe.
Don’t. All of the kneading and methods used in regular bread making are to help the gluten, which is completely absent. So do look up gluten-free specific bread recipes (like this one that I make almost weekly).
- Hunt for recipes on Pinterest and Google and create a list or board with recipes to try.
Make a list of gluten-free items you’ve been buying from the store, like bread, bagels, cookies, etc, and then start researching how to make those at home.
- Take time at least once a week, preferably more if you can, to make a gluten-free recipe from your research.
The more you actually practice making gluten free meals, the better you’ll get! So start cooking!
- Consider the trial and error an investment in your health and budget!
Don’t cry over gluten free things that turn out bad and feel like you’re wasting money (ok, you certainly CAN cry, I know there have been a few times when I did). But know it is part of the process that pays off after practice, I promise you.
3. Stock your gluten-free pantry with baking supplies from the bulk section
I keep all of these items on hand for various recipes:
- Brown rice flour
- Potato starch (NOT flour)
- Tapioca starch
- Xanthan or guar gum
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Ground flax seed (buy whole and then grind it yourself)
- Baking soda
Find a store that carries bulk gluten-free flours. I use a local Winco, but many Krogers also have a well-priced bulk section.
My absolute favorite place to stock up on gluten free pantry foods (including flours) is Azure Standard. They are high quality and you can pick up orders locally once a month.
You can check out their site to see if there’s a drop off location near you. If not, you can become a site drop off location. Just pull together a couple friends to create the order minimum.
If your grocery store doesn’t carry something that you need, ask them to carry it! Get a couple friends to also request it, too. I’ve seen, first hand, that this can get things into your store. Be the change, man!
Your dietary needs are not an inconvenience. They want to sell you stuff! Asking your grocery stores to carry gluten-free items so you can shop there benefits both of you. So don’t be afraid! Start a conversation. They may even be willing to order some items in especially for you.
NOTE: I know that those of you who deal with legitimate celiac may not be able to purchase from a bulk section for safety reasons, but there are still ways to buy in bulk from other retailers that are cheaper than grocery stores.
If you don’t have a local bulk section or you have celiac and aren’t able to purchase in bulk, here are my favorite online places to order through:
4. Use a lot of fresh produce and whole foods
When eating gluten free on a budget, you can naturally lower the costs of gluten-free foods by avoiding a large quantity of processed foods—and by processed I mean store-bought crackers, cookies, chips, etc.
It’s easy to buy gluten-free crackers these days, but they cost A LOT more than regular crackers, and really aren’t the healthiest option anyway, right?
Snacks and bread items are the biggest gluten-free foods that are easy to purchase, but can take up a good portion of your budget!
Here are a couple tips to cut out the processed foods:
- Instead of snacking on crackers, chop up crisp fruits and veggies.
- Make homemade ranch dip or peanut butter to go with fruits and veggie snacks.
- Make your own trail mix using nuts, seeds, and dried fruit (buying in bulk will save you money here, too)!
- Keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for a protein snack or lunch
- Make homemade larabars to replace store-bought granola bars
Note: Even when splurging on processed foods, know that the majority of tortilla chips and potato chips are already a gluten-free food and don’t need to be bought “special” gluten-free.
Related post: Check out best tips to keep veggies fresh as long as possible.
5. Meal plan for a month to save even more money
Going into the month without a solid menu plan is like lighting a $20 bill on fire every week. Without a plan, we tend to make impulse buys instead of hunting for the best deals. And it adds up.
Here are the main ways meal planning has saved my sanity:
- It saves time because I’m not trying to put a meal together at the most stressful time of the day. Stressed and distracted thinking at the 4pm “dinner-rush” takes longer to work through to actually make dinner.
- I waste less food because I have a plan to use all of what I buy.
And that means…
- I save money since less food waste equals less money wasted.
6. Eat foods that are naturally gluten-free
I wish someone had told me this when I first started eating gluten-free (maybe while holding my face so I’d really hear them):
Eat more foods that are naturally gluten-free!
Because there are a lot of naturally gluten-free foods. And I’m not just talking vegetables and fruits.
- Potatoes, sweet or otherwise
- Rice of all colors
- Corn—including popcorn (hey-o, favorite snack!)
- Oatmeal (certified gluten free, I buy this brand in bulk here)
- Nuts & seeds
When meal planning, incorporate more meals that utilize starches that are from potato, rice, corn, and beans (like many Asian and Mexican dishes) .
When you make meals that originally don’t have gluten in them, then you don’t have to substitute it with a more expensive gluten-free option.
NOTE: Soy sauce is actually made up of 60-80% wheat. Tamari is pure soy sauce, and is made fully out of soy. Read those labels (and buy tamari)! The price difference is worth it here.
Here are some naturally gluten-free meal ideas:
- Stir-fry over rice
- Whole roast chicken with salad and potatoes
- Street tacos
- Peanut Butter Thai Noodles
- Sweet potato, turkey, and brussels sprout skillet
- Taco Soup
- Korean rice bowl with fermented veggies
- Cream of potato soup
- Beef stew
- Turkey and rice soup
- Enchiladas with corn tortillas
- Vietnamese Banh Mi bowls
When you eat this way, though, you don’t miss the gluten because it’s normally not there to begin with.
7. Know the price point of gluten-free foods and stock up!
Here are a couple tips to help you find the best priced gluten free foods in your area
- Drive to a few stores and look at the prices for a list of specific items, like noodles, tortillas, etc. In a notebook, write down all the prices for each item. Then circle the store with the lowest price.
- When you see an item you use regularly in your meal-plan often for a great price, stock up!
Coupons should not drive your menu plan. Your menu plan should drive what items you buy. Stocking up on items you know your family loves and will use will save you more money than buying something with a coupon that you don’t like (or don’t know how to use) and will throw away.
Bonus tip to save money on Gluten-free foods:
Avoid the gluten-free specific food aisle.
This could be connected to almost every tip I’ve mentioned. Stores that have these sections are generally very over-priced and usually contain foods that aren’t the healthiest option, anyway.
Look outside of this aisle for snacks and items that are naturally gluten-free (or again, make your own!). Like I already mentioned, you can make most of these items yourself, OR you can find them in regular aisles because they’re naturally gluten free (like corn tortillas, tortilla chips, or potato chips).
I’m not for NEVER buying these foods. When I’m sick or when I’ve just had a baby, my husband will often splurge on some of those convenient items to bless me.
Those are great times for the convenience.
I also love to grab a box of pre-made cookies (these are my-all time favorite) for a road trip. Maybe even some pretzels . These items are great for treats, but buying them regularly will make for an expensive gluten-free diet.
There you have it. Simple ways we save a bunch of money while eating gluten-free.
Want to save MORE money?
Check out these posts from the Money Saving Series:
Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below. I love talking food—especially gluten-free food!
How to Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
Learn the best meal planning method, with step-by-step instructions for beginners.
As a family of six on one income, I need a meal plan on a budget. Whether you’re on a keto diet, need to lose weight, or just want to know what’s for dinner every night, this meal planning method will work for you. You can grab the free printable meal plan template to use month after month as you eat healthy, save money, and gain sanity by always knowing what’s for dinner.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in.
Do you ever go shopping when you’re really hungry?
Any chance you (like me) always buy way more than you should when you shop in that hungry state?
Shopping without a meal plan is pretty much the same thing.
I used to go shopping quite often without any meal plan. I just went with what sounded good, haphazardly putting things in my cart.
The end result is the same:
Over-budget spending, wasted food, and wasted money.
Using a meal planner and getting it down has saved me so much. In so many areas.
Here are the main ways meal planning has saved my sanity
- I actually save time because I’m not trying to put together a meal frantically, usually at the most stressful time of the day, when I don’t think very quickly and am distracted.
- I save food and waste less because I have a plan to use all of what I buy. Even cabbage.
And that means…
- I save money since less food waste=less money waste. Duh.
Now get this.
I have found that if I plan out a month at a time, instead of a week, I actually save even more time, food, and money. Win, win, win.
Plus, then I know what we’re eating for four whole weeks and I only need to sit down to plan once a month!
It’s not perfect, but, oh my, it has really helped my sanity. I wish I could fully express how much I love doing it this way and how I truly think YOU might benefit from it as well!
Here are some tips of things to do before we get started on the nitty-gritty of how to monthly meal plan
Print off a template for menu planning you like
You’re going to be looking at it every day for four weeks. Having a pretty printed meal plan template helps with the mindset and willingness to stick with meal planning.
Fill out the dates on the meal plan template download so you’re ready to go.
You can grab my free printable menu planning template by signing up for our freebie library HERE (various designs to choose from).
Have a list of family favorite meals.
In the free meal planner template, there’s a list you can fill out with meals you want to keep in rotation.
It has a place to jot down the main three ingredients that will spoil the quickest.
This will be a great tool to use to make things go quicker every time you plan. Take the time now to fill in the blanks, and get cozy with it. You’re gonna see it a lot.
Set the mood.
Make it a fun, relaxing time. Grab your favorite beverage, put on some music, and find a quiet time (aka after kids are in bed).
I know it sounds silly, but it’s important to set the mood and make this time enjoyable so that you keep doing it and even look forward to it. Make it like a date.
Collect your supplies.
Grab your shopping list, fun pens (yes, mandatory ;)), a pencil, and get the weather forecast out in front of you.
Whether you like paper or you use an app to write your shopping list, have that next to you as you meal plan.
My favorite pens of all time are these Stabilo pens. They write like an extra fine Sharpie, but they don’t bleed through the paper.
Use a pencil to write the meals down so that you can have the flexibility to erase and move things around as needed.
Now you’re ready to get started on your meal planning! Right? Ready or not, here we go.
The basic steps to help you become a meal planning master
1. Consider the factors that will impact your menu and mark it on the menu calendar in pencil.
- Will you be out of town for part of the month?
Consider making a couple freezer meals before you go so that you can pull one out when you get home.
- What evenings will you be crunched for time?
Maybe those are your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot meal days.
- Do you have friends coming over?
Think about what meals you can easily double or triple that are cost effective (my go-tos are sweet potato chili and some kind of chicken pot pie or gravy with biscuits).
- What is the weather going to be like?
Is it going to be really hot? Perhaps you could plan more outdoor grilled meals to keep the house cool.
What about if it’s super cold or dreary? Maybe you want to incorporate more soups than normal.
2. Write down any meals that you eat regularly (streamline your meal planning!)
Taco Tuesday, anyone? Try to have a rhythm to your weekly meals that you can get excited about.
Here are some ideas that make meal planning easy:
- Meatless Monday
- Instant Pot meals on Monday
- Taco Tuesday
- Stir-Fry Thursday
- Alternate your easy dinners on your especially long days: Pizza, spaghetti, nachos, breakfast for dinner
- Easy nearly-no-prep breakfast on Mondays (we do soaked oats every Monday)
- Fried eggs on Friday
- Pancakes or omelets alternate on Saturday
- Granola bowls on Sunday
Are there certain days when you’ll be eating out? Fill those spoken-for meals in first.
Having meals on a regular rotation will help streamline your menu planning.
3. Consider groceries you found on sale and already stocked up on (shop your kitchen)
Look at what you already have and need to use. Let the items you’ve already found on sale guide your meal plan.
But don’t get caught up in planning meals based on researching what will be on sale.
TIP ABOUT COUPONS: Once your meal plan is done, it guides your coupon and sale search. Not the other way around.
When you know what foods you need, those are the items you watch for to come up in deals.
That way you don’t get tossed around in a sea of endless “deal” items that can actually waste money.
This next step is long, but stick with me. It’s not as complicated as it looks here! And there are pictures.
4. Fill in the rest of the meal plan with this pattern:
- Think of a meal you really like or want to incorporate (I call this a CORNERSTONE MEAL) and write it down on the meal plan.
- Look at the ingredients that will be left over after and will spoil quickly.
- Brainstorm (or Pinterest) ideas for meals that use up the reminder of those ingredients (Refer to your meal idea sheet to help).
For example, let’s say my cornerstone meal is chicken pot pie.
After making this meal, I know that I’ll have half a package of raw chicken, and a bunch of celery left over.
I think about meals that incorporate chicken and plan it within 2-3 days of this meal so that the raw chicken doesn’t go bad.
Celery has a longer life in the fridge, but I know I’ll need to incorporate it within the next week or two. I LOVE stir-fry with crispy celery in it, AND it incorporates chicken, so I add that to my meal plan on Thursday.
5. Add ingredients to your shopping list as you meal plan
I personally use the Wunderlist app on my phone because I think it’s the best app ever!
My husband and I have our lists synced, so we can both add things to the grocery list and mark when we buy an item. And it makes a ding sound when you check an item off the list. I. love. It. (maybe I have a problem?).
Use whatever shopping list is best for you! If you like a good ol’ paper list, do it.
I would suggest having your shopping list separate from your menu, though. Dragging your meal planner around the store gets it gross fast. Or lost.
Now repeat this process for the other meal times you want planned in advance!
I only plan out breakfast and dinner. I usually just make a mental list of staple lunches and snacks that I’ll rotate through and make sure I add those ingredients to my shopping list.
If it’s helpful for you, make a physical list so you can better visualize it.
That’s how I do it. I can already feel the burden lifting.
I know what’s for dinner tomorrow. And the next day. And the next…
Tada! No more grocery shopping without a meal plan! Where you end up buying a lot of food you don’t need — like when you’re hangry shopping 😉
- Feel free to swap meals around if you end up not feeling like eating what you wrote down. Just try to swap it with a meal that utilizes the same ingredients.
The beauty of a plan is that you can shift things around and still have a grasp on what’s going on. It stays under control.
- Review your meal planner every day, ideally reviewing it the night before to prepare for the next morning.
That way you stay on top of the prep needed to make it happen. It doesn’t do any good to have a plan only to realize you didn’t thaw the meat or purchase the main ingredients.
- When using Wunderlist or another shopping list app, add the groceries with the store name you purchase it at FIRST.
For example, I’ll add “Winco chicken,” or “Trader Joe’s gluten free pasta.”
Then when I go shopping I hit the alphabetize button and all of my items are separated by the correct store.
I hope you found some useful tips to make using a meal planner a little bit easier. Do you have any meal planning ideas or methods that work for YOU? I’d love to hear them (aka read them in the comments)!
Do you want a free menu planner printable? Click here!