Meal Planning 101
Whether or not the beginning of the new year includes eating better, everyone can benefit from learning how to meal plan. I’ve gotten quite a few requests to share how I do this. I’ve been doing it for so long, I actually had to sit down and think about how to explain it! Once you get the hang of it, it becomes like second nature and can easily become part of your weekly routine!
Do you meal plan already? Do you go to the grocery store with an organized list or do you simply fill your cart with whatever looks good to you that week? Planning out your week’s menu in advance and making a grocery list based on this can be a major time savor and help you to prepare healthier meals rather than deciding what to eat 30 minutes before supper time. You’re less likely to order take out or end up eating cereal for dinner.
The first thing to do is choose a day of the week to consistently make a grocery store run. I have grown accustomed to having our groceries delivered or picking up an order in the store parking lot. It actually helps me save money because it prevents me from making a bunch of impulse purchases in the store! A few days before your shopping trip or delivery, go through the following steps to plan out what you want to buy. (For me, Tuesdays are generally when we get our grocery order, so Sunday afternoons are when I plan out our meals for the week.)
Check Your Inventory
Look at what you have in your fridge that needs to be used up.
Check the pantry to see what staples you have (taco shells, pastas and rice, canned goods)
If you eat meat, check the freezer to see what’s available. I also buy a lot of frozen veggies, so I check my supply of those too.
Look at your grocery store’s sale flier and mark the specials. I use my grocery store’s app, which lets me see sale items by category. I look there first for inspiration. I also make sure to stock up on really good deals. When boneless, skinless chicken breasts go on super sale, I buy a ton and freeze them out in meal appropriate portions. The same goes for shelf stable items. If diced tomatoes are 50 cents a can, you best believe I’m going to stock up!
Look Through Your Favorite Recipes
I’ll address how I store saved recipes later, but for now, look through your go-to recipes wherever you save them. Since I already checked what I have in my own inventory and know what’s on sale this week, I choose recipes that include ingredients based on that knowledge. I also simply choose what looks good to me that week. The benefit of being the family chef is that I get to cook what I like! After my recipes are chosen, I write up my shopping list based on what I need.
#1. Dedicate certain types of meals to different days of the week. We always do Taco Tuesday. We make homemade pizza on Fridays. And over the summer, on Wednesdays we make, “hump day hibachi” on our flat top grill. I may change up the type of tacos or pizza I make, but this takes some of the decision making off my plate (excuse the pun!)
#2. I make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day so there’s nothing to do for lunch but reheat! Often, that may mean doubling the recipe, but that's a simple step.
#3. My grocery store’s app has an option to shop past orders. I typically scroll through what I’ve bought in the last 3 months and add my usuals to my list - things like eggs, coffee creamer, and fresh fruit.
How To Save And Store Recipes
Any hand-written recipes or recipes I’ve torn out of magazines are stored in binders that I keep with my cook books. Each recipe gets tucked into a clear plastic sleeve to protect it from cooking mishaps. I have 3 binders at this point. One is dedicated purely to desserts. The other 2 have tabs to organize recipes by categories – chicken, Italian, side dishes, soups, etc… Every Sunday, I flip through my binders and pull out the recipes I want to make. At the end, I simply look through my little pile and write down the ingredients I need!
Note - When we try a new recipe for the first time, we have to decide if it’s “worthy” of entering the binder. Is it crave-able? Was it easy enough to prepare? Would we be excited to have it again? If the answer is yes, it goes in the binder.
Online recipes can be a little trickier to organize, so if you have a great system, PLEASE let me know! I use Pinterest to save a lot of recipes. The great thing about Pinterest is not only can you organize things by “boards,” but you can break your boards down into categories now! I keep recipes saved in categories such as “healthy choices,” “comfort food,” and “holiday recipes.” Every so often, I scroll through my boards and clear out the ones that failed or just wouldn’t be good enough to go in the binder. You can also print out these recipes if you like to have a tangible copy.
I know that’s a lot of information, so I hope you can find some inspiration here! Let me know how you meal plan and please let me know if you have other successful ways to plan a menu for the week! As always, feel free to ask me any questions and leave a message in the comments!