Hi Everyone. I’ve been meal planning for quite a few years now and I gotta tell ya, it’s saved me a whole bunch of money, time and my marriage! It ensures that we get healthy meals every day and saves a ton of money on take out.
It can be overwhelming in the beginning, but it doesn’t have to be. I plan my meals on a Friday evening over a glass of wine :). I use a Google spreadsheet as my meal planner, but you can use anything – a note pad, a piece of scrap paper tacked to your fridge, or you can buy a meal planning note book if you prefer.
There are a few ways of doing this, depending on what you prefer and your lifestyle. You can:
- Go through the grocery flyers every week and plan your meals around what’s on sale
- Plan your meals around a combination of family favourites and new recipes
- Plan your meals around new recipes only
Or a combination of all three – it’s entirely up to you. I love trying new recipes and so I plan my meals around recipes from a few cookbooks I have in my kitchen, and a couple of cooking Blogs that offer different foods from around the world. I love trying food from other countries. Some weeks I plan a leftover meal also, especially if I buy a roast. That also adds to the savings. However, I’m also making a list of the recipes that were a big hit, so that we can have them again.
While meal planning can solve many problems, you’ve got to tailor it to fit your lifestyle. Give yourself lots of leeway to experiment and don’t forget to make room for Pizza night! Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard work. You do a bit of concentrated planning at first (like on Friday night over a glass on wine), but after that, it’s plan sailing and will save you tons of money and time in the long run (I promise!)
Whatever your strategy, write down your meals for the week in your note pad, on your scrap piece of paper, your fancy menu planning book or on your computer.
CHOOSE YOUR RECIPES CAREFULLY
If you’re looking to save money at the grocery store (that’s the main reason why I started meal planning) make sure that you choose recipes or meals that don’t require expensive ingredients that you’ll never use again. If your recipe calls for a spice found only in the foothills of Morocco, then you’re defeating the object. Unless, of course, that Moroccan meal is something you’re going to eat every week.
DECIDE HOW MANY MEALS TO PLAN FOR
I usually write down dinners only, and I make a bit extra to take for lunch the next day. That way, I don’t have to make extra lunches for Hubby and myself. For breakfast, we usually have fruit, cereal or eggs, so I don’t write a meal plan for that. It’s also a good idea to plan for a slow cooker dinner or two a week for those nights when your kid has soccer practice or swim class and time is tight. I love slow cooker meals – it’s like coming home to a meal that somebody else cooked!
WHERE TO GET THOSE RECIPES
After many years of buying a bookstore-worth of cookbooks, I’ve got it down to four cookbooks that I use constantly, and two cooking Blogs that I love. The cookbooks I use are
- Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
- Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals
- The Looneyspoons Collection, and
- Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook
There are so many excellent cookbooks out there and equally excellent food Blogs – Pinterest and Bloglovin’ are great places to start – but these ones suit our lifestyle because they offer everyday food with ingredients that I can find at my local supermarket or farmer’s market, at affordable prices. They are also healthy meals that help reduce Hubby’s high blood pressure without leaving us hungry after dinner (unless it’s for chocolate ice cream, of course).
MAKE YOUR GROCERY LIST
Make a grocery list based on the ingredients in your recipes, crossing off any ingredients you already have on hand. That way you won’t buy another bag of cornmeal when you already have one in your pantry (I did that a month ago!). Don’t forget to include other staples in your grocery list like coffee, sugar, tea, etc. If you like, you can take things a step further to make your shopping experience even more pleasant, and group items together – meat, dairy, fruit & vegetables, etc. And don’t forget your reusable grocery bags!
Now, sit back and finish your wine.
Once you’ve gone grocery shopping, you can do one of two things; you can spend an hour on Sunday batch cooking and chopping, or you can simply do all that on the day you cook. It’s completely up to you.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to making your life in the kitchen a bit better.