3 Meal Planning Options for the Busy Working Mom (Divided by Budget)

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my Mint account.  And, er, it wasn’t looking good.  We were close to our budget categories except groceries.  That ever-present thorn in my side.  I look in the pantry and I see a ton of food, but nothing to eat.  I look at my bank and every other transaction is Jewel, Aldi, Dunkin Donuts.  I could visualize my money flying out my car window on the way to Dunkin Donuts for a yummy iced coffee because I just didn’t have time to press the coffee button.  While money was one side of the issue, the other side was that we never felt we had actual meals from all of the shopping we did, so, as a result we went to Jewel, Aldi, etc, etc.  On top of the first two issues, my husband and I both work, the kids are in daycare, dinnertime is chaos.  It was frustrating.  But, there was a solution.  In fact, there were three.

1) Meal Delivery Services (Top Tier Budget)

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, and more (yes, there’s MORE.  I found the top meal delivery services over here at Forbes) have made it easier for working parents to come home and cook a fresh, home cooked meal without too much fuss.  All of the ingredients are measured out for you.  They are proportioned (hello, built-in portion control!).  

How do you make meal delivery services into an entire meal planning + grocery option?  Easy.  Choose the 5 day dinner meal delivery.  Hello Fresh is nice because the meals are faster to make and they have a family option (for picky kids).  Next, make a list of lunches and breakfasts with the ingredients.  Last, order your list on Peapod, Amazon Pantry, or any other favorite online grocery delivery option.  Minimal effort.  Maximum food options.  


2)  E-meals + Online Grocery Order (Mid-Tier Budget)

E-meals is an option I heard from Dave Ramsey.  This is very cool.  Instead of scrolling through Pinterest looking for recipes, you can go to e-meals and choose your option.  Do you want budget friendly?  They have a meal plan for that.  Are you Paleo?  They have a meal plan for that.  In fact, they have meal plans for clean eating, quick and healthy, low calorie, low carb, paleo, budget friendly, 30 minute meals, slow cooker, kid friendly, classic, gluten free, vegetarian, heart healthy, diabetic, and mediterranean.  It’s $5-10 a month (depending on if you go month to month or annual) with a 14-day trial.

From there, you can order your ingredients online.  You know you are getting exactly what you need.  Nothing more, nothing less.

3)  Meal Prep + Clicker Method (Bottom-Tier Budget)

This plan will save you dollars every time.  I actually started using it when I learned about it in a minimalism group I’m in and I saved money instantly.  Here’s what you do.

  • Create a meal plan for the week.  You can do this via Pinterest, recipe books, or even combine options and use e-meals.  Make sure to include lunches and breakfasts.
  • Download a clicker app on your phone.  
  • Go to the grocery store and as you add in your groceries, round-up to the nearest dollar and click for every dollar the item costs.  
  • When you go to the check out, you know how much you will be spending, and can put items back if you need to in order to stay on budget.
  • NEXT, you batch prep your meals for the week and freeze them.
  • LAST, you toss them in a one-pot or crock pot system for dinner.

These systems aren’t ending here.  Nope.  I am going to test each system for one week each.  I’ll give you my feedback, how much it cost, and how much time it took.

What meal prep + grocery hacks do you use?  Share in the comments.


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