A couple years ago I started making weekly meal plans in an attempt to cut back on waste. I felt like I was throwing away more food than I was eating, not to mention how much money I was spending with each visit to the grocery store.
Since starting meal planning I’ve developed a style of prepping and planning that is all my own and works well for me. Everyone has different needs when it comes to food; anything from time constraints to allergies and there are always some challenges to overcome BUT if you’re willing to put a little time into it I can promise you that you will spend less time and money in the grocery store, you will waste less food and decrease your frustration on a daily basis when the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question pops up!
This will be a two part post. In Part I there will be some meal planning tips that can help anyone and everyone get into meal planning and in Part II I can get into detail about my method and hopefully provide a week’s meal plan, shopping list, and recipes that you can actually use in your own life.
Here are the basic things you need to think about when you’re sitting down to create a meal plan:
Check the calendar
Any days you know you’ll be out for dinner? How about days where you’ll be working late or rushing off to an evening event?
The first rule of meal planning is don’t talk about meal planning! Just kidding, it’s don’t over plan. You will NOT eat at home 7 days a week so don’t plan for that or you’ll be throwing away food.
The second rule is that meal plans should make life easier not harder. If you’re always tight for time on Wednesday nights account for that, maybe try to use the slow cooker that day so when you get home dinner is ready to go.
Look in the fridge and see what you have that you need to use up and plan to use those ingredients early in the week. Things like veggies on the brink are great to use for soup or chili and you can think about using up leftover meat in a stir fry. Don’t forget to check the freezer as well, all sorts of goodies can get pushed to the back corner and forgotten about.
Where the Deals At?
Check flyers or the web for deals at your local grocery store. This can also help you narrow down what you might want to make for the week. Big sale on ground beef at the store? Look for recipes that require ground beef – spaghetti bolognese one night then hamburgers on another – ingredients that do double duty and are on special are the BEST!
Consider making big batches of things like soups, wraps, or stir fry– you can freeze them for grab and go lunches or make a big ol’ salad on Sunday night and feast on that throughout the week.
Read All of the Recipes
Be sure to READ the recipe before you select it! Watch out for:
- A ton of ingredients – This will blow up your grocery budget for the week. I usually stick to ones that have 10-15 ingredients
- Exotic ingredients that your local store likely won’t carry (you may have to plan to hit up a specialty market)
- Marinating times and long cook times (unless you enjoy eating dinner at 10PM)
- Recipes that have a million steps. I don’t know about you but recipes that require the oven, then the broiler and then 2 burners seem like a lot of work for a weeknight supper to me – keep it simple!
I’m really bad for this one but don’t forget to take inventory of the things you use every week – milk, bread, toilet paper, seasoning, cooking oils.
Now that you know how I go about making a meal plan, watch for Part II of this post where I’ll show you exactly what and how I plan and buy for my weekly meal plans. Maybe I’ll even have to roll out a Part III for my wine and spirits shopping list…just kidding I buy $15 wine and Palm Bay.