Awhile back, I posted some tips for sticking to a grocery budget. For months, I’ve been wanting to post about my meal planning process. The truth is, I really did not feel like an expert on the topic and knew it was something I wanted to work on. While I was good at sticking to a budget, I hated that we were always throwing away produce at the end of the week. Now, I’ve gotten into my groove with meals. Dinner is on the table in less than 30 minutes each night, breakfast and lunches take about five minutes to pack and best of all-no wasted food at the end of the week! I’ll admit, it was a tedious process at first but now that I’m used to it, it only takes me about 15 minutes a week to plan our meals.
-First, I look at our schedule for the week. Every day is different but it helps to plan ahead. Some nights one of us has an obligation, other nights both of us do. It helps to know who’s cooking and how much time we have, or if one of us will not be home.
-Next, I go through our cupboards, fridge and freezer. We typically shop sales so we always have some meat in the freezer and food in the cupboards. Using what we have not only saves money but makes choosing meals easier.
-Then, I schedule out dinners based on what’s going on. I try not to repeat the same “type” of meals two days in a row. So if we’re going to have pasta twice, I leave a day in between.
-From there, I plan lunch. I pack leftovers a lot, so it’s good to know what will be for dinner. I try not to overplan lunch. Lately it’s a soup, salads and leftovers.
-Finally I plan breakfast and snacks. These things I prepare in advance so they are grab and go. I try to spend the least amount of time possible in the kitchen each night so this is key.
-Next up, I write out the rough draft of the grocery list. I go through and make sure I’ve included everything needed for all recipes. Then, I double check to make sure we do not already have any of the ingredients on hand. Also, a lot of times I think of substitutions with things we already have on hand. This saves time and money!
-Finally, I write the final grocery list in the order of where things are located in the store. Tedious, yes, but it saves SO much time while shopping and makes grocery shopping as painless as possible.
-When I get home, I immediately organize food and at one point during the weekend I usually spend about an hour in the kitchen prepping food. Lately that’s meant making a pot of soup, baking oatmeal, chopping veggies and hard boiling eggs. Yes, not exactly how I want to spend my Sunday afternoon but during the week it’s worth it!
So there you have it, my meal planning process perfected. It may not be the right way, but it works for me and I’m glad I found my groove!
What about you, do you plan your meals ahead? Do you grocery shop once or more than once a week? Do you prep food on the weekends? I would love to hear more tips!