It’s dinner time and you’re frantically searching the refrigerator for ingredients to assemble today’s meal. You discover some tomatoes and a chicken breast that has been sitting in the refrigerator too long. You look around at your hungry kids and realize it’s gonna have to be another pizza night.
Does this sound familiar?
Dinner used to be such a struggle for me and my kids. I often found myself at the grocery store multiple times a week trying to gather ingredients for dinner, wishing I had prepared ahead.
I realized that the solution to preventing these crazy evenings is to set up a meal planning routine.
Meal planning is the prerequisite to meal prepping. Including it in your routine will enable you to plan out your meals strategically and know exactly what you will be making for dinner each night.
Proper planning helps avoid multiple trips to the grocery store and will likely reduce your spending and food waste because you’ll have a clear understanding of what you need for the meals you plan on making that week.
Here are a few printables to help you plan your meals before going grocery shopping. I have included kitchen inventory sheets you can use to audit your kitchen and meal planning sheets to help you plan your meals.
Click here or down below to grab your free printables!
The first step in meal planning is to decide when you will sit down and plan your meals and the duration you will prepare for. You can plan a menu for the whole month, two weeks, one week, or a few days. This is all based on your preferences, schedule, and needs.
As for me, I like to meal plan on a weekly basis because it allows me to buy only what I need for that week which has helped me reduce my spending. Since I am single, co-parenting, and my kids are young, my meal planning routine is not going to look exactly like yours does and it shouldn’t. I simply hope to give you some steps you can take so you are more effective.
If your kids are older, you can include them in your meal planning routine so they can take part in selecting the meals for that week.
As for my schedule, I have settled on planning and shopping one day and prepping the next day.
How this looks like for me is that I meal plan on Saturday and meal prep on Sunday. Other times I do it on Monday and Tuesday. It’s all based on my current situation.
Before you rush off to the grocery store, we’re going to start meal planning by shopping our pantry, fridge, and freezer. It’s important to shop your home first and see what you have in stock before going grocery shopping. This allows you to eliminate unnecessary spending and minimizes your grocery trips.
I have realized that in most cases, I will have items I had planned on cooking the previous week but never cooked so shopping the home allows me to see what I can prepare that I already have in stock before going out and buying more items.
This is also a good time to do an inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
I am still working on making this a routine but it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is write down all the items you have in stock, and write the quantity and expiration date for each one. You can then keep these inventory sheets on hand so that the next time you audit your fridge, freezer, and pantry, you can see what’s in stock without going through the items.
Once you have a defined schedule for when you will meal prep and you have shopped your home, it’s time to start putting together the menu.
1. Gather Your Recipes
It’s a good idea to have a master list of recipes on hand that will make it easier for you to prep for the week. You can gather up recipes on Pinterest, have a recipe binder, write them down as you make them, or store them online.
I prefer to use Notion, which is a productivity app with many functions. Over time, I have gathered recipes I like and want to try and I store them there. It is really easy for me to look through these recipes when I’m meal planning and then select the ones I want to make for the week.
I like this system because I can access all of my recipes in one place and when I need to make one, I simply print it out and I’m ready to go.
I also have a list of quick meal ideas that I can reference whenever I’m in a bind. These include lunch ideas for the kids, a list of meals I can make, and snack ideas.
2. Where To Get Your Recipes
Here are some of my favorite websites where I get my recipes from:
Pro Tip: Get recipes from favorite foods in the frozen section.
When you’re at the grocery store and you see a prepared meal that you like, instead of buying that one, take a picture of the ingredients and buy the ingredients so you can make yours at home. You can look up a similar recipe online.
Doing this will save you money and may result in more food than you can get from the package.
3. Put Your Menu Together
Once you have an idea of the meals you’d like to make, put them into your menu for the week.
When it comes to putting my menu for the week together, I like to separate my meals into different sheets so I can have enough space to write down all the meals for the week.
As I look through recipes, I add them to my meal planners for each category.
4. Make A Grocery List
Once you have all of your recipes printed out, go through the ingredient lists and check off the items that you have. Then add all the needed ingredients to your shopping list for the week.
You’ve done the hard work of getting your meals planned out, now it’s time for the fun: shopping! If you are a busy mom like me, I would recommend grocery pickup. Most grocery stores offer this service so you can shop in the comfort of your home and then go and grab your items when ready.
Pro Tip: Stick to your list and don’t deviate to other items you don’t need!
It can be tempting to buy items you see at the store but don’t deviate from the plan. Stick to the grocery list and make a note of whatever item that interests you for next time.
Now that you have your recipes printed and your fridge and pantry are restocked, you can start meal prepping!
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be daunting. As I mentioned earlier, you can choose to meal prep for a week, two weeks, or a few days. It’s all based on your schedule and preferences.
You can also choose how much you meal prep. Don’t feel as though you need to meal prep every single meal for the week. You can prepare meals for the days when you know you’ll be busy and plan to cook on the days you are less busy.
Another strategy is to meal prep your ingredients so that they are ready to go when you want to cook. This cuts down on the cooking time and makes sure you’re still using all the items you bought.
I like to meal prep snacks, smoothies, sometimes juices, salads, lunches, and dinners. I find that having these prepped helps me when I’m busy.
There you have it! Five easy steps you can follow to help you conquer meal planning. Let me know how you’ll incorporate these steps into your routine down below and happy planning!
Jun 22, 2022
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