Meal Planning may seem complicated and time consuming but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually easy. Then, in the long run it can save you so much time and money especially once you find out the method that works best for you. Many people avoid it simply because it is intimidating or the times they have tried it, it turned into a chaotic mess. I myself have been there but it just really takes some proper thinking and organizing in the beginning. Once you find out the best routine for you, the time you spend planning and preparing gets cut in half. It is also important to set your “plan” into action. I know sometimes we can plan but never actually get to doing it… you know what I mean? (Love the meme below)
First things first, you need to understand that meal planning will be different for everyone. There are plenty of apps, programs, etc. that may be wonderful and may work for you. Unfortunately I’m picky and that’s what brings us here. I’ve spent a couple years perfecting my meal planning process and along the way I’ve found what has worked best for my family and me. It will never really be “perfect” since things are constantly changing, plans don’t go as planned etc. but I’m really happy with it and I implement it as best as I can. Hopefully some of the tips, tricks, and ideas I use can help you in your own meal planning process no matter what food lifestyle you life by.
Why should I meal plan?
Not sure what to list first….saving money, eating healthy, eating real food, trying new delicious recipes, being organized, saving time, saving energy, or just having a plan to life. They are all equally important and for me eating healthy and saving money on good, healthy, and real food tops my reasons for meal planning. When I have my meal planning in order I just don’t find myself wondering what to cook and rummaging through my fridge and pantry trying to see what my options are. I’m also not a fan of running to the grocery store multiples times a week, or those dreaded moments where you find your self at the grocery store multiple times in one day! Meal planning can be useful for everyone, whether you are single, a couple, have roommates, or have a family anyone can do it. Also, what we eat over the years has seem to have lost its value. In other cultures, or even going back in time; sitting down and eating was treated with more importance than current times. What we eat, how we eat it and when we eat is extremely important. After all, sleeping and eating is what keeps us alive. We easily devote 8 hours to a healthy sleep, and we should offer the same importance to what we eat. No matter what, life is way more fast paced now days but again if you plan it out, you can make it work.
Where to Begin?
Start by setting some time aside to actually plan everything out. When I tried meal planning on a weekly basis I found myself spending too much time doing it and not getting a chance to actually do it. Maybe I just got lazy 🙂 I decided that planning for the month was so much easier and that alone saved me so much time & stress. Yes people I stressed about meal planning. It’s sad I know 🙂
-Have a binder or notebook set aside specifically for your meal planning
-Choose 1 day to plan for the next month.
-Choose only 3-4 cookbooks to choose from for that month. You can rotate your cookbooks that way and it will help with confusion of finding the recipe when needed.
-If you have any recipes you want to try from the internet, print them out, save them on your tablet, or phone so you can access them easily when needed for the month
-Decide how many recipes you need to find (ex: I plan for 4 dinners per week, this allows me to account for leftovers, or dining out)
-Write down all of your recipes on 1 list and the sources (ex: cookbook name and page number)
-On a separate list(s) write down the recipes and ingredients for each week
What to do each week:
-Have a day where you plan your week and write down your grocery list. (Read through your recipes & quantities while writing your list)
-Set time aside to clean out your fridge (mine is usually the day before trash day) (this is when you can throw out those lurking leftovers you forgot about and make room for groceries)
-Set time aside to go grocery shopping and do this only once a week! (if you shop at multiple stores, visit them all in one day)
-Set a day aside to clean your groceries (mine is the day after I shop) I also organize my fridge and put things away nicely
-Set a day aside to cook any grab and go breakfasts, lunches, or freezer dinners, you can even cut up veggies to use through out the week for snacks or salads (this can even be done every two weeks)
Shopping and Saving Tips:
-Set a shopping budget
-Shop once a week
-Shop for bulk items once a month and shop around. There are many online stores with great prices on non perishable bulk items
-Shop in season
-Visit the farmers market for fruits and veggies (this is my favorite, I feel like I save a lot on produce from the farmers markets)
-To cut costs, buy basics, avoid prepackaged, and processed foods. Buy necessities.
Other Helpful Ideas:
-Have backup meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) It can be a freezer meal you put together or something easy you can throw together if things don’t go as planned
-Make some grab and go food options like these breakfast muffins (this one is important for breakfasts since some mornings you literally have to run out the door)
-Leftovers make great lunches (you can even use leftovers to make another recipe)
-Choose healthy snack options, such as carrots, celery, peas, nut butters, seeds, nuts, and have them pre cut, or ready to grab
-Make a soup, stew, or regular meal to last you the whole week (this can be a back up meal for no cooking nights, or leftover nights) (It can also be used as a backup lunch)
-Don’t throw away your meal plans when the month is over. You can reuse them in the future and thank me later 🙂
-I like to set aside 2 major cooking days every month for freezer meals, or any snacks/foods that will last longer
-Each morning or even the night before you can pull out any frozen food that needs to be thawed & also cut up anything you may need for the day such as lunches, side dishes for dinner etc. or for crockpot meals you can start them in the morning
-Invest in a Vacuum Sealer, This one is similar to what I have it helps me store foods long term such as nuts, seeds, grains, meats, and some fruits and vegetables
-Make premade marinates, sauces, or seasoning herbs that you can store in jars or freeze for when you need them.
Things to Remember:
Life is life, it’s often unexpected and we may never feel like we have enough time to do everything. If it doesn’t go as planned, that’s okay. Just pick up where you left off and don’t beat yourself up about it. There are months or periods were I don’t even get to meal planning and I just wing it. I will add that it’s not my favorite time but it happens.
Also, again we are all different. What works for me may not work for you and if it does work for you today, it may not work out for you tomorrow. Learn to adapt to your needs and make changes as you see fit.
The time spent planning will save you so much time every day, week, and month
My Meal Planning Binder
I love incorporating cook books and finding new recipes
I keep a notebook in my binder to scribble on and write ideas
After some grocery shopping
Washing my fruits and veggies read about my awesome and efficient way to clean them
Prepping salads and some leftovers for the week
Overnight grab and go breakfast (chia seeds with coconut milk and mango) here is a great over night oats recipe
Prepping some salads & snacks
Somewhat organized fridge
I encourage you to try meal planning if you haven’t, and if you have, to try and implement more ways of making it easier on yourself. I hope in the future I can go into more detail of my planning process so I encourage you to subscribe for more ways to live a simplified healthier lifestyle. Also, make sure to visit the recipes tab at the top so you can add some delicious recipes to your meal plan!