I have always wanted to be someone who is good at meal planning. Some people dream about traveling the world or winning the lottery but all I wanted was to successfully meal plan. (Okay, I would probably take winning the lottery over figuring out how to meal plan. Then I could pay someone to meal plan for me.)
I recently felt even more motivated to figure out a way to plan our meals
and grocery shops after reassessing our grocery budget. Going to the grocery
store without a plan always ended up with me overspending and it's embarrassing
how much of that food would end up going to waste. When I did try to meal plan
I would end up picking meals for the week that had very few overlapping
ingredients. I would end up with an abundance of random left over ingredients sitting in my fridge which still had me wasting food. Or I would pick recipes with
ingredients I would probably never use again and they would also sit in my fridge
until they inevitably expired.
My aimless visits to the grocery store would also result in a full fridge and pantry but
nothing to make for dinner. It felt impossible to turn my unfocused grocery
shop into an actual meal so dinner time would hit and we would end up just
getting take-out because we had 'nothing to make for dinner'.
Can anyone relate to this?
After a lot of trial and error I can finally say I have found a way to meal
plan that is simple, organized and saving us money.
1) Find a planner: After trying every meal planning app my iphone
had to offer, I decided to go back to good old fashioned paper. I picked up an
inexpensive ($10) planner from HomeSense in December. Ideally you'll want a
weekly planner that has a space for notes. This one happened to have the weekly
planner on the left side and then a section for notes and a to-do list
so it was perfect.
2) Have a list of go-to meals: I admittedly hate coming up with dinner ideas. This was one of my biggest barriers when it came to meal planning. I found it helped to have a list on my phone of our
favourite meals and a few pinterest boards of healthy meals I'd like to try. I also like to flip through my favourite healthy cookbooks to see if anything inspires me. If I'm struggling to think of meals to prepare I will honestly just flip back to past weeks in my meal planning book and just repeat meals. Kevin doesn't care and it just makes my life easier sometimes.
3) Start planning: Before I do anything I look at my calendar and see what we have going on that week. Are there any meals that we will be out of the house for or are there any nights I need to make sure the meal is really quick? For example, Thursday nights I have spin so I need to make sure that dinner is extra quick and easy. I can't tell you how many times in the past that I planned dinners for nights that we weren't home and yet again, food just ended up going to waste if we couldn't get to it in time.
Next I start browsing my lists of go-to meals I jot down any that I'd like to make that week in the notes section. I also quickly take a look at my pantry, fridge and freezer to see what we have that could be used in the meal planning. I
should probably mention that I use pencil during this entire process because
things do change and I like to be able to make changes easily. Once I have a
few meals picked out I start on Monday and enter breakfasts for the week. I usually
have the same few breakfasts on rotation so that's easy. Then I go back to
Monday and working my way down the week I start deciding on my lunches and
dinners. Sometimes my lunches will just be leftovers from the previous day to
make things easier.
On Sundays I plan for Monday-Thursday and on Thursday I plan for
Friday-Sunday. I try to use any left over groceries from earlier in the week
when I plan the weekend meals.
4) Write your grocery list: I use the to-do list on the right
side of the planner to write my grocery list. I start on Monday's breakfast and
write any groceries that I will need for that meal that we are missing from our
pantry or fridge. Next I do Monday's lunch and dinner, then I move onto
Tuesday, etc. If I plan on having leftovers for a meal then I make sure my
grocery list has enough ingredients for there to be food left over.
5) Review and Edit: This is the step that I never used to do and
I think it's been the game changer for me. If my grocery list looks like it's
getting too long or I see an ingredient on it that I know deep down I will
never use again, I edit my plan. I either substitute that ingredient or I
switch that meal out for another one. I also try to watch out for ingredients
that come in packs larger than my plan calls for. For example, a few weeks ago
I put "baby spinach" on my grocery list because I planned for one
spinach salad. After reviewing my grocery list and plan I knew I would end up
throwing out the spinach because at no other point had I planned to use that
spinach. I edited my plan to make sure that I would use as much of the spinach
as I could. This has also helped me not throw away whole wheat tortilla shells, corn
tortillas and other packaged items.
Before I head to the grocery store I like to transfer my grocery list to my cell phone but that's just me. I
also like to put the list in order of where it would be located in the grocery store so
I can get in and out of there as quickly as possible. I like efficiency a
little too much haha.
So that's it! I've gotten to the point where I *gasp* look forward to meal planning. I know, I'm shocked as well.
Let me know if you have any tips for successful meal planning because I always love hearing what other people do.