Today I’m sharing my meal planning routine and how I make it as easy as possible to meal plan each week.
I want to start off this post by saying that meal planning doesn’t have to be a ton of work or complicated. Once you get the hang of it and find out what works best for you and your family, you can figure out what steps you can skip or combine, what’s essential to making it an easy process and what just adds an extra step without a lot of payoff. Just because what I’ve described below works for me, that doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Take what works for you and leave the rest!
Before I dig into the tips below, be sure to check out the other posts I’ve written about meal planning too:
Before I even start to meal plan, if I find any recipes that look interesting I’ll email them to myself throughout the week. I find recipes from all over the place – Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, Twitter, basically anywhere that content is shared online. It typically doesn’t take much time or effort to email recipes to myself before hand – it’s a pretty quick process.
When I’m ready to meal prep, I’ll log into my email and print off the recipes I’ve sent myself. I’ll use these new recipes and any favorites that I already have to come up with a plan of what I’ll be eating for the upcoming week.
I keep all of the recipes that I print out in a binder so that they’re all together and easy to find when it’s time to meal prep. Having them in one place makes it a lot easier. If I have to look all over the kitchen, dining room, and office for recipes, it’s going to take more time and effort for me to meal prep. I’m all about simple and easy!
Check out sales and the pantry/fridge
Next I’ll look through flyers, online, and in apps for the grocery stores that I shop at to see if any of them have any good sales. If ground beef is on sale, I’ll get one to use that week and an additional one for the future. Some things that I tend to stock up on when they’re on sale are:
Protein – beef, chicken, pork, etc. Protein us typically the foundation of the meals I make, so being able to get a good price on it really makes a difference on the weekly grocery bill.
Frozen fruit – I use it for my nearly daily protein smoothies for breakfast.
Frozen vegetables – since they’re frozen rather than fresh, I don’t have as much as a timeline to use them up. If they stay in the fridge for a month or two it’s not the end of the world and they’ll still taste fine.
Broths – chicken, beef, or vegetable – I end up using them for recipes all the time, especially when I’m using the Instant Pot.
Before I even leave the house and head to the grocery store, I’ll shop my pantry, fridge, and freezer first. I always check to see what I already have before anything goes on my grocery list. There’s no point to buying another jar of pasta sauce if I already have one in the pantry. I might as well save that money.
Create a shopping list
When it comes to actually putting together a shopping list, I usually do it in the notepad app on my phone. I like to delete things as I add them to my cart so that when I’m done I know that I got everything on the list because it will have all been deleted.
I also like to put things on my list depending on where they’re located in the store. For example, I’ll put bread and buns next to each other because they’ll both be in the bakery section of the store. It doesn’t make sense for me to put one at the top of my list and one at the bottom, and then walk across the grocery store to get them.
Reducing the number amount of walking I have to do in the store going back and forth means that I’m in and out quicker. I’m all about making things as easy and quick as possible.
Put groceries away
When it comes to putting my groceries away, I take a look at my meal plan to figure out where they all go. For example, if I’m not eating a chicken stir fry for 5 or 6 days, I’ll put the chicken in the freezer and pull it out to thaw in the fridge the day before. Doing that last little step makes sure that the food I bought stays good until I’m able to make the meal that I’ve planned.
If it’s tough for you to remember to take stuff out of the freezer to thaw, I’ve found that setting an alarm on my phone to do it is really helpful.
And that’s it for my meal planning routine! If you’re not meal planning right now, I know that the above can seem really overwhelming. If you’re not up for the whole thing, maybe just try to implement one or two steps of it.
I’ve also found that the more I meal plan, the easier it gets. I’m able to figure out little shortcuts and do things a bit better and faster than when I first started doing it. Just like anything else, it takes practice to perfect meal planning.
Do you have a meal planning routine? Share a favorite meal planning tips of yours in the comments below.