Meal Planning Made Easy | Nicole McDonald | Skillshare

Meal Planning Made Easy

Nicole McDonald, Money Saving Guru

Meal Planning Made Easy

Nicole McDonald, Money Saving Guru

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5 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Meal Planning Benefits

    • 3. How to Create Your Meal Plan

    • 4. Put Your Meal Plan on Auto Pilot

    • 5. Succesful Meal Planning Tips

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About This Class


Learn how to easily create your first meal plan with meals you already enjoy. These simple tips will help you develop a meal plan that works for your family. 

This class will show you how put your meal planning and grocery shopping on auto-pilot. Stress less, eat better, and take back family dinner one meal at a time. 

Nicole McDonald, author of 'The Extraordinary Art of Meal Planning' and blogger at, will share her tips & tricks for successful meal planning. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Nicole McDonald

Money Saving Guru


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1. Intro: Welcome. My name is Nicole McDonald, and I am founder of Moms Saves Money dot net and author of The Extraordinary Art of Meal Cleaning. Today I am so excited to bring one of my favorite classes online. I have been teaching this class and many other many money saving classes at community colleges, local events, corporate events and even in home parties for the last decade. For the first time ever, I'm bringing those classes online to share with you. Now. This meal planning class is about getting a meal plan that works for you and your family. Specifically, we're going to talk about all the benefits of meal planning, how to find recipes for your meal plan and how to put that meal plan on autopilot. That's where the real magic happens. Ominous shares of my top tips for meal planning and my top tips for saving money on groceries. So I'm glad you joined us and let's take back family dinner one meal at a time. 2. Meal Planning Benefits : welcomed a meal planning made easy. I am so excited you could join us today. This first course is going to talk about all of the benefits that you're going to get for meal planning and get you really excited to get started on it. First things first, though. What is a meal plan? Simply put, it is just a schedule to cook the meals your family already enjoys. I'm not gonna have you cooking complicated recipes with 15 ingredients you've never heard of. This class is all about making a meal plan that works for you and your family. So what are some of the benefits that you're going to see from meal planning? First thing is less wasted food now. I read an article a few years ago that the average family of four throws out. Wait for it $1200 worth of food a year. That's $100 a month going straight to the trash. So you're going to save money when you meal plan. The biggest one for me is less stress. Before I started meal planning, I would freak out about 4 30 go. What are we having for dinner tonight and frantically search my pantry for anything that I could make. And of course, at that time the kids would be screaming, They need my help, and it was just extremely stressful. Time a day for me. When I started meal planning, my stress levels decreased dramatically. If you know what you're going to eat every night, you're not going to be tempted to run through those fast food restaurants, which will also save you money. I know for my family of five, it is at least 25 if not closer to $40 each time we run through a fast food restaurant. If you're not eating fast food, you're probably eating a lot healthier. Also, if you have any allergies in your household, cooking at home is one of the best ways to avoid those allergens and make sure your family is safe. Lastly, meal planning is going to save you so much time and you may be thinking, okay, Nicole, I have to sit down for 15 minutes a week and write out a meal plan and a grocery list. How is this possibly saving me time? Well, if you could only grocery shop every 7 to 10 days and eliminate all those in between grocery trips. You're saving yourself time there. You're also not running around free and ticket dinner time because you'll know exactly what you're going to make that evening. The meat will be defrosted, and it will just be a wonderful experience every day. So now that you know why you should be meal planning and some of the benefits and I hope you're excited about that, let's talk about how you're going to create a meal plan that works for your family. 3. How to Create Your Meal Plan : Welcome back. Now that you're all excited about the benefits you're going to get from meal planning, let's talk about how to create your meal plan the easy way. The first thing I want you to do is take out a piece of paper and pencil, and I just want you to write down seven meals. You already cook. Feel free to pause the video and come back when you're done. Now I want to ask you how that exercise was for you. Did you have seven meals listed? If so, congrats at your first meal plan. Here's why have you do that. Most families cook the same 15 to 20 meals on a repeating basis. This is gonna help you because you can use the recipes you already cook to create a successful meal plan. One thing I recommend during this process is to involve your family. If you have a husband or kids that you cook for, asked them for their input, it makes your life easier because that's less work for you. So just asked them to list their favorite meals and maybe even complete their own meal plan . I want to share this with you. It's pretty cute. My son, when he was about seven or eight, made his ideal meal plan. As you can see, it's mostly kid friendly cuisine, which we won't follow exactly. But it's nice to know what he likes to see on the meal plan. We got pizza, Mac and cheese, ham, bake, fish sticks, burrito, pizza bites. And I love that, he added in leftovers. He knows the importance of using up what we have in the fridge at the end of the week. Now this helps me plan my meal plan because I can take a few of his ideas and put them into our regular weekly meal plans. And he absolutely loves it. And this helps. A lot of you have picky eaters. Let them choose a meal or two a week, and then, you know, at least they're eating a few times a week now. What if you don't have any meals listed? That's okay. If you are new to cooking and you don't regularly cook at home, I'm gonna show you exactly how to get started with the right recipes. My biggest advice is start simple. Look for recipes was less than five ingredients with easy to find ingredients in simple instructions. I am a firm believer that anyone could cook. I started with a Fix it and forget it. Five. Ingredient Cookbook. So it was all slow cooker meals, and nothing in the recipe book had more in five ingredients. I felt I could conquer anything in that book, so some places to find recipes online. These are my favorite all recipes dot com. You can create an account to digitally save your recipes. One thing I will recommend when you're on all recipes is really used. Their rating systems look for four star or higher ratings. That's going to indicate whether that's a solid recipe or not. I steer away from anything less than four. Starks. It's probably not going to taste the best. You can read the comments for recipe variations, so if you want low fat or they may recommend to make it less spicy, so it's always a good idea to read the comments. Another thing I love is if you want to change the servings, it will automatically adjust the measurements of what you need to include of the ingredients. It's very helpful. Feature Pinterest dot com is my second favorite because I could get lots of recipe inspiration just for my smart feet. And then I can save those recipes to my Pinterest board so I can access them at any time at a later point. I do recommend that you keep a few traditional recipe resource is on hand. I recommend a classic cookbook that would be for basic recipes and cooking tips. So if you want to learn how to, um, cook a certain type of meat, or how long to cook a certain vegetable, it's going toe. Have that information in there, and that's very valuable toe have in the kitchen. So the one I have is actually Betty Crocker. I've had it before. I was married so close to 20 years, and it's been a wonderful cookbook over the years. There's also taste of home, better homes and gardens, and there's a few more. Just get a basic cookbook that's gonna have a lot of really good resource is for you now. I also keep a personal recipe book, and this is so I can save my recipes. My family favorites. I also save newspaper clippings or magazine recipes that I find and believe it or not, I just use a regular three ring binder. You can also use arrest P box. But with the three ring binder, I can also add in my manuals for my kitchen appliances, which is a nice place to just keep it all in one location. If you do the binder, I recommend you use plastic sleeves just to protect the papers. Now you have some ideas of where to find recipes and how to get that meal plan started. So this next section we're gonna put that meal plan on autopilot and you are going to love this. It's going to save you so much time and make your meal planning super easy. 4. Put Your Meal Plan on Auto Pilot: Now that you have some recipes picked out for your meal plan, let's talk about how to put your meal plan on autopilot, and this is life changing. This is going to make your meal planning process so amazing. So one of the things you can consider if you're still having a hard time filling up your meal plan this theme nights. And when we talk about this, we have three main themes that we can consider. The 1st 1 is by cuisine so you could have Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Wednesday, Chinese so on and so forth. And so you know every Monday as Mexican, and you can repeat that throughout the month. If you're curious what Brenner is, that's breakfast for dinner, and it's very popular at our house, the second type of theme you can consider as main ingredient. So beef, poultry, pork, vegetarian seafood and beans. Now we like to do this so that we get a nice variety in our diet, and we're not eating red meat 3 to 4 times a week. If you are trying to save money, I do recommend you at a vegetarian meal or two every week. That's going to save you big when you're not buying meat. The third type of theme that you can consider is by cooking methods, so slow cooker oven or so which where you usually have to baby sit the food, freezer meal, instant pot or grill. Now this plan is really great for people who have busy life. So if you know Wednesdays are just full of activities and you work late that night, you can have a slow cooker meal every Wednesday, so you can put something in in the morning, and as people come home through the door, they can grab a hot meal. On weekend, you can plan grilled foods. That's usually when we do our grilling. You can use a combination of the themes, really do what works for you. This is just a way to get some ideas and just have a regular night of the week theme and how this is going to help you. As you can use thes theme nights toe, fill your meal plan quickly. So, for example, we have Taco Tuesdays, so we know every Tuesday is either tacos or burritos. It makes it really easy. Fridays are pizza nights and the kids absolutely love that one. And we always know. Friday we'll have pizza, so it makes it really easy to plan around that now. The next thing you're going to Dio is make a master meal plan and grocery lists, and this is where the magic happens. This is where you're going to save so much time and meal planning is just gonna be very easy. It's all gonna be autopilot for you. So how you're going to do that is you are going to start saving your weekly meal plans. I see all these really cute, dry erase boards people have in their kitchen, and they put their meal plan up there every week, and then at the end of the week, they erase it. You do all that work? Why erase it? Save those weekly meal plans, create a master grocery list for each of those meal plans and then store them in your binder or digitally. Whatever's easiest for you and then you're going to repeat the meal plan and 3 to 4 weeks. Remember, I said, most families cook the same 15 to 20 meals on repeat use that to your advantage and create a master meal plan and start implementing an autopilot meal plan. Now, if you want to add a few new recipes here and there, go for it. But keep a master meal plan and you will have your meal plans ready in no time. Now this last section I'm just going to give you some of my additional tips for success and really get going with this meal planning. 5. Succesful Meal Planning Tips: Welcome back. As we come to the end of this class, I want to summarize a few things we learned and give you some tips on how to really save money through meal planning. So as we talked about, you're gonna use meals you already cook. Consider theme nights, such as cuisine, cooking method or ingredient. Involve your family as much as possible. And remember to recycle those past meal plan so you can put your meal planning on autopilot . Now let's talk about making your grocery list so that you can really save some money. So start with the master grocery list that we talked about based on your meal plan. Make sure to include side dishes, breakfast and lunch. One of the things I do with my grocery list is I actually organize it by the sections of my store. That way only walked down each aisle one time, and I can pick up everything on. I need quickly and efficiently and hopefully avoid those end caps with all those enticing impulse purchases before you shop. Inventory your pantry just to make sure you're not buying duplicates of things you already have, or to make sure that you have all the seasonings. Those are things we don't typically buy often, so it's always good to double check. Your goal is to shop only one time per week or less. It is proven. The less you shop, the more you save. So if you can get your shopping down to every 7 to 10 days, that alone will save you a lot of money. And the ultimate goal is to eliminate those impulse in between trips to the store. You know those ones where you forgot one ingredient for dinner, and somehow you end up with $50 worth of groceries and hopefully they have forgotten ingredient. So those are some tips to help you save at the grocery store, and we're gonna go a little bit more in depth with more money saving tips when you plan your meal plan. One of my biggest tips is to select in season produce those air. Your best bargains out of season produce is very expensive, so the more you can eat in season, the more you will save. Buy in bulk. When prices are really low, you can you lies your freezer to freeze meat or produce or even dehydrate shop loss leaders at your grocery store and a loss leader is just the items a grocery store sells at cost or below cost to entice you to shop there store. Typically, you will find these on the front page of the grocery ads. Cook from scratch. If you can avoid some of those boxed packaged foods and cook the same items from scratch, you can save a considerable amount of money. My last tip is used coupons and money saving APS. I am a big coupon user and have been teaching coupon classes for the past decade, and you can definitely save a lot of money doing that. So now that you have some pro tips on money saving and how to get the grocery shopping list toe work for you, I'm gonna turn it over to you because I want to see what you guys are coming up with. So please leave a comment with your project. I want you to create a one week meal plan and grocery list. I can't wait to see what you all come up with, and if you have any questions, feel free to add them is a comment, and I'll be happy to answer them