In today’s post I’m sharing how I simplify meal planning and make it as easy as I can each week to buy all the healthy food I need for an entire week’s worth of meals.
To be completely honest, before I started meal planning I thought it was this big thing that would require a ton of work and planning. In my head it was just too much trouble to actually do. I figured that I’d forget something no matter what, so what was the point of even trying?
Little did I know that once I got the hand of it, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Instead of going to the grocery store multiple times each week, I only go once. I use the food I buy, instead of forgetting that I already had something in the fridge and letting it go to waste. Below I’ve listed the streamlined steps I take each week to simplify my meal planning.
What do I already have?
First off I like to take stock of what is already in the house and available to me. What is already in the fridge or pantry? Does something that I bought last week that I didn’t use up have to be eaten in the next few days? Then I’ll make sure I use it in my meal planning. I make sure to take advantage of the ingredients that I already have.
What’s on sale?
I look through the grocery store flyers (or look online – most of the flyers are available on grocery store sites and are personalized to your location if you put your postal/zip code in). Is there a big sale on chicken? Then I’ll use that in a meal instead of pork chops that are regular price. I also like to stock up on staples when they’re on sale. Everything from frozen veggies to pasta to beans are perfect for saving for later when they’re on sale. Those are things that I know I use on a regular basis and will keep for awhile.
Once I have an idea of what ingredients I definitely want to use, I’ll look for recipes. I’ve printed out my favorite go to ones, and leave them in the kitchen so that I always know where they are and they’re easy to look through. There’s lots of places to find recipes online, from food blogs to Pinterest. One of my favorite places is budgetbytes.com. You can type in a search word or browse recipes by main ingredient or region of the world that inspires the recipe.
I also like to schedule my meals at this point. Since I’m only feeding myself, I only need to cook a couple times a week for lunches and dinners, so I’ll schedule meals on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and eat leftovers in between. Having a plan in place makes it a lot less stressful when it comes to figuring out what to make for dinner when I’m already hungry.
Make a list
I then make a list of all the ingredients that I’ll need for the recipes that I’ve picked. I’ll check the pantry and fridge again to double check what I already have and when I need to buy. I like to make a list on my phone of everything that I need. I can then order things on my list based on how my grocery store in set up (bakery > meats > canned items > dairy > produce). While it does take a few extra minutes to do that, it ends up saving me time when I’m at the grocery store. Instead of going back and forth across the store I know that the milk and yogurt will be one after the other on my list and in the same aisle at the store. Once I’ve found an item and put it in my cart I can also delete it from my list. It makes it a lot easier to see that I’ve gotten everything that I need once I’m done shopping.
Putting away groceries
Once I get home I like to take a look at my meal plan and figure out what goes in the fridge versus the freezer. If I went grocery shopping on Saturday morning and I’m not making beef stroganoff until Thursday night, I’ll put the steak in the freezer. If I’m making chicken stir fry the next day, I’ll put it in the fridge. Once again it’ll take a minute or two to think things through, but it’ll be easier than trying to figure out when I need to use perishables up by and it keeps things from going bad.
Now that you know how I simplify meal planning, what’s a tip that you have?