Meal prepping is all the rage I know. But this is not that. There are aspects of some meals I plan that can be made ahead, but it takes a lot less time and energy to plan, than it does to plan and prep. Baby steps people. Baby steps.
Let me begin by saying I give up on my own meal plan half way through any given week, all the time. My husband’s commute is long, and the motivation to make dinner during an extended toddler witching hour is minimal at best. That being said, if I didn’t meal plan at all, we’d be eating fast food and/or takeout every week night.
There are two different methods I use, depending on budget, time and the type of week we’re having. The first is making a grocery list based on the ads, what’s on sale or in season that week; then plan meals based on those items I plan to purchase (or have purchased). The second is pull out all our favorite recipes and Pinterest and make a list of meals I want to make, THEN make my grocery list based on the ingredients I need.
Both methods are effective. However the first method is what I prefer if we’re really trying to stick to a budget.
I use several different printables to meal plan, but if I want to plan the most efficiently using the items we already have on hand to save money; I always begin with inventory. It sounds time consuming but its the only way to get a handle on food waste. I use a separate list for each category; fridge, freezer, pantry.
Once you have an inventory, now you can either browse the grocery ads for items you know you can use with what you already have, or sit down with your inventory lists, ads, and recipes and get to work!
If its your first time, just start with one week. If you’re an overachiever and its your first time, start with two weeks. When you’re on a budget that relies on payday for your grocery money, you can plan for how long your pay period is. For example, you get paid every 2 weeks, so meal plan and do all your shopping for 2 weeks at a time. Then you’re not worried about “saving” part of your grocery budget.
Once you have your meals planned, do your grocery shopping. Take your list!!! I like using the checkbox (or, bubble?) feature in iPhone Notes, because I can check items off as I put them in my cart. This is a lot easier than pen & paper while walking through the store, especially if you’re wrangling littles.
If you use a paper planner, or the calendar in your phone; make reminders for yourself to do things like defrost meat on the days needed, prep ahead what you can (pre-chop veggies and store in the fridge, etc). This way when life distracts you the day of, you’re totally prepared, instead of totally prepared to order take-out.
The key things to remember are:
- Collect all your favorite recipes in one place; a binder, recipe tin, Pinterest board, whatever works best for your life.
- Always start with your inventory! You don’t need a fancy printable, but if you like printables then having one helps keep you organized.
- Set/write down reminders! You can do all of the above but then forget to defrost or run out of time to prep and then purchased food goes unused or worse; goes bad and has to be tossed out.
Remember, you are in charge of your own dinner destiny! Well, sort of. Sometimes our toddler is in charge, or a power outage, or a busted stove, or…life happens. So don’t beat yourself up too much. In the end you can say, at least you tried?
When you’re ready to try your hand at meal planning I created a printable kit to get you started! It includes all the tools I use every week to plan healthy, affordable meals for my family! Click here to get your kit now!