Welcome back! I took a brief hiatus for travel, work, and other general business in life. I’m back now with some tips on meal planning. Since I started planning our weekly meals, I’ve seen a decrease in our grocery budget as well as time spent figuring out what we are going to eat after a long day of work. I don’t like having to run to the store more than once a week, so when I go I want to know that I have everything I need for a full week of meals and snacks.
First, I write down all the nights we will be eating dinner at home. Most weeks this is Monday-Friday. If we have something during the week that requires us to eat out, I factor that in so I’m not buying extra and risking food waste. Second step is to re-use any meals from the previous weeks that we really loved. For example, some type of taco and a night of sweet potato noodles/chicken sausage are almost always in the mix. I put the quickest / easiest meals on the nights I know I’ll have the least amount of time. Nothing worse than getting home from the gym on a Tuesday night and realizing you planned a new recipe or a more time-intensive meal. No bueno.
I will occasionally glance at sale ads for the stores I shop in (Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Marianos, Jewel, ect), but I must admit I’m not really a coupon person. If I see chicken on sale, I might work that into two meals that week rather than just one to take advantage of the sale. However, my next step in deciding our meals is usually based on protein type. We have fish at least once per week, and I try not to do too many red-meat meals in a row. I like to keep a good variety of protein each week.
Once all the dinners are filled in, I’ll add a list of things I need for lunches or snacks. Since we both eat lunch and snacks at home most days, it requires that to be loosely planned as well. I never lay out my breakfast, lunch, or snacks, but I know what I tend to eat. Extra protein is needed, along with salad items or soup or bread for sandwiches. And I always need eggs – that’s a major breakfast staple!
To make the actual grocery list, I use the app “Out of Milk.” I’m sure there are a million different grocery list apps out there. I find this one to be straight forward and easy to use. During the week I may add a few things to the list when I think of them, but most of the items get added when I meal plan – generally during the day on Thursday or Friday. I go through each meal I planned, and add the items I’ll need to make it. Then I add any breakfast, lunch or snack-related foods we are low on (Bread, eggs, salad, almond milk, protein bars, almonds, apples, ect). After that its miscellaneous items I may need around the house, like coconut oil or aluminum foil.
From there it’s pretty much done! I head to the store(s) on Saturday afternoon, and can be in and out of 2-3 stores in about an hour. I try to be as quick and efficient as possible. Of course I buy things that catch my eye while I’m there, but the list and meal plan has really kept that to a minimum. Sunday mornings are typically when I will cut up fruit and veggies for the week, make hard-boiled eggs, and pre-cook anything I can. I’m lucky that since I work from home, I never have to pack a lunch or snacks. When I was working from an office, I would always pack my meals the night before.
I keep my scribbled meal plan in the kitchen to remind me what I’m making each night during the week. We tend to eat pretty simple things, so dinner is usually ready in under 30 min. Some week’s I’m more adventurous and like to try new recipes I’ve seen online, and also bring back old favorites (kale and quinoa casserole). Currently I’m looking forward to being able to grill again! The scenery is so much better when I’m making dinner on the patio.
So there it is folks, one way of setting up a meal plan. If anyone has any tips or alternate ways of planning a weekly menu, I’d love to hear them. Now let’s eat!