Today I’m sharing my top 5 meal planning tips. I know it can be overwhelming to start meal planning, so I’m hoping that these tips will help.
I was talking to someone at work last week about how they grocery shop. She said that she goes every few days and buy the ingredients for a meal or two. It was a different approach than I take, so it got me thinking about how I meal plan for the week. I thought that I’d share the tips and tricks that I use to make sure I have the groceries that I need for the week without going overboard and buying a bunch of food that I won’t eat. Just in case you’re looking for some more meal planning tips, check out my How to Eat Healthy on a Budget post.
Keep all your recipes in one spot.
I like to print out the recipes that I find online and keep them in a binder in the kitchen. I find that it’s easier when it comes time to make the recipe because I know it’ll be in there and I don’t have to go looking for where I put it when I printed it, or look through my email or bookmarked recipes. Making it as easy as possible to cook is key! If someone besides myself is making the recipe, they know exactly where to find it – in the binder.
It’s also easier to make my grocery list when I know all the recipes that I want to use for the week are in one place. I just have to go through the list of ingredients, check the pantry and fridge, and if I don’t have it, or enough of it already, that ingredient goes on my grocery shopping list.
Check your flyers.
When you’re planning out what meals to make for the week, make sure that you have a look through your grocery store flyers. Base meals on what’s on sale that week. For example, if chicken is on sale, make sure that you include 1 or 2 chicken meals. Taking advantage of sales and specials helps to stretch your grocery budget. This step doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. It usually only takes me a few minutes to flip through the flyers and get an idea of where I want to shop that week as well as the kinds of meals that I want to make.
Make a shopping list.
Making a shopping list is essential for me. There’s no way that I would be able to remember everything that I have to buy off the top of my head. Making is list ensures that I have everything that I need for the meals for the week. I don’t forget anything, so I don’t have to make another trip to the store part way through the week and waste time.
I like to use the notes app on my phone. I can add things to it as I go through the recipes that I want to make. I can also place things on the list in the order than I shop in the grocery store. For instance, I usually start in the bakery, head to the meat area, then go the canned aisle, then dairy, and finally the produce area. I can put like things together so that I can get them all when I’m in that aisle or area instead of walking back or forth all over the store. I find that I’m able to save a bit of time when I’m able to group things together, so that I can get in and out of the grocery store as quickly as possible.
Decide what you’ll eat when.
Make sure to schedule your meals. Decide what you’ll be eating on what day. That way you’ll know better how many meals you’ll need to make as well as how much food to buy. If you typically go out for dinner on Friday or Saturday, you’ll know not to plan a meal for that night. Make sure that you account for leftovers too. I love leftovers because it means less time preparing food the second time around.
Having a schedule to stick with will make it easier during the week when your motivation is low on Wednesday night and you’re hungry. I find that having a plan and ingredients for a meal means that I’m much more likely to make it, even when I’m tired and tempted to order takeout or delivery. Knowing that I have everything I need to make a healthy meal is usually enough to get me to actually start cooking.
I also find that knowing when I’ll be eating things makes it easier when it comes to putting the groceries away when I come home from the store. If I’m making a chicken dish on Sunday night and Friday night, I’ll leave one package of chicken in the fridge and put the other one in the freezer. On Saturday night I’ll take the chicken out of the freezer and out it in the fridge to thaw so that I can use it on Sunday.
Stick with what you like and know.
If you know that you (and your family) loves tacos, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Make tacos. In addition, a busy Thursday night probably isn’t the best time to test out a new, complicated recipe or a new cooking technique. Stick with that you know you’ll like.
Rotating through 20 or 25 recipes is probably lots for most families. It gives you enough variety that you don’t get tired of any one thing, but also keeps things uncomplicated because you’ve made all the recipes before and there won’t be any surprises. I find that using recipes that you’ve enjoyed eating before also takes some of the stress out of cooking mid week. If you have an idea already of what you’ll be making, it’s not as intimidating or overwhelming.
Since I generally only cook for myself, I only need to make 2 or 3 recipes every week, and then eat leftovers for the rest of my lunches and dinners. I love keeping leftovers in these containers (affiliate link). My breakfasts are typically toast or granola, yogurt, and fruit, so they’re super easy to put together in the morning.
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Do you meal plan? What’s a tip of yours that makes it easier to do?