Meal planning recently has become a new healthy habit that I can check off of my list. I never really thought I needed it because I had budgeting tools and tricks I learned from school and work. However, all of the sudden it felt like Kevin and I started to get sick of our normal routine of meals and this sprouted up organically.
The reason I am sharing some of the tools we use weekly is because I always thought meal planning was mundane and too time consuming and I really wanted to show a meal planning process that is realistic and easy to use.
Here are a couple of things to know before you fill in the Meal Planning Sheet:
- Count how many times you normally cook a week, not how many times you’d like to. This is essential! We cook 3-4 nights out of the week due to our busy schedules and eating out once per week for dinner. So we plan for four dinners.
- Just meal plan for dinner. Most people have their breakfast and lunch routines down or can mix it up relatively simply without any planning at all.
- Write down your leftovers. They are so important. They help you reduce your waste by using up what you have first and save you from avoiding buying duplicate foods at the store.
- Aim for each meal to include a protein, fruit or vegetable, and whole grain.
- Have the recipes ready. We have a recipe section under our bookmarks tab on our laptop and save it so both of us have access to the recipe.
How do we actually meal plan?
First, we have a notepad on the fridge and when we run out of a staples like butter, frozen fruit, coffee or any food that we don’t typically need to buy weekly we write it down.
Second, we go over what meats, fruits, or vegetables we have as leftovers. Write these down in the leftover section.
Third, we Pinterest, Google, or think of recipes we know that could use up the leftovers. Put those meals down first.
Fourth, figure out new meals you will need to make from scratch. Cue in more Pinteresting or frantically searching through recipe books for inspiration for something else to cook this week.
Fifth, after you have the recipes write down only the ingredients you need to buy on the Ingredients section.
Sixth, add the foods from the first step to the Ingredients list.
Now take that paper to grocery store to shop. Then take it home and stick it on the fridge for the week.
What do I leave out of meal planning?
- Having rigidity of what days to have what meals. This is the time consuming part of meal planning that I just skip because you don’t need it. Everyones appetite ebbs and flows. I like having the freedom to decide on that day, what meal I’d like to make.
- I do not include staples we buy weekly on the ingredients list like eggs, milk, juice, etc.. Writing these down are a waste of time and unnecessary as most of us go on autopilot and just grab and go in those sections of the grocery store.
How long does this take us?
Literally, ten minutes or less. This is so easy that Kevin does this even when I am not home…..
Is this cost efficient?
At first I honestly did not think I was going to save any money. In my head I already knew all the tips and tricks about grocery shopping…. I was dead wrong. Kevin and I typically spend $70-100 a week for groceries for the two of us to eat a very healthy diet. When we meal plan we notice that we have less food waste at the end of the week and we spend closer to the lower end usually $70-80 a week! That saves us $80-120 dollars a month with minimal effort. Not to shabby.
I hope you love this easy guide to meal planning. Let me know any tips or tricks you use at home that saves you money at the grocery store!