I have written posts in the past on meal planning and how I approach it. I was asked by a reader to talk more about how I plan meals so I thought I would give an update on my approach and give some more tips for making meal planning work for you.
Things you can count on when you incorporate meal planning into your routine:
– You WILL save money
– You WILL save time
– You WILL eat healthier
– You WILL waste less food
My first tip for meal planning is to stick with it. At first, you may feel like you are spending a lot of time planning meals. But once you get the hang of it, it will be a breeze.
There are a lot of tools you can use to help. Here is my approach and some tips I use every week.
1. Take stock. Each week I begin by heading to our pantry, fridge and freezer and writing down everything we have on hand. I try to create one or two meals based around these items by just picking up a couple fresh ingredients.
2. Keep a master list. I keep a running list of meals Aaron and I enjoy, as well as other ideas I find in magazines, on TV shows, etc. If I am in need of ideas, or feel like we have gotten into a rut, I turn to that list to mix things up. I always see meals on the list I totally forgot about.
3. Check grocery store flyers. Most sale flyers can be found online. I check for deals on meat and produce and use those as the center piece for the week’s meals. Stock up on staples when they are on sale, too. It will make pantry meals that much easier.
4. Write it down. I use the template below to plan out meals and snacks. Breakfast, lunch and snacks stay pretty consistent throughout the week with a couple options for each. Dinner is different every night.
Once I have the meals planned out, I use the sheet below to write out our list. I like this sheet because everything is organized by department, which makes it easier at the grocery store to grab everything quickly. There is no going back to the produce section for something you forgot.
5. Find inspiration. I have go-to websites I turn to for meal planning inspiration. Find what works for you and your family. Here are my favorites: