I am a big advocate for meal planning.
It really makes a huge difference in a person’s ability to stick with saving money and eating healthy.
We have all been there…. you’ve had a bad day, you are cranky and you dont want to cook, so you will end up stopping to get fast food on the way home or ordering a pizza.
That’s the hardest part for most people…. avoiding the crappy foods during a moment of weakness.
Aaron and I usually sit down once a week or so (usually Thursdays or Fridays after our produce delivery arrives to see how we want to use it) to make out a meal plan for the week.
We assess what we already have in our refrigerator and pantry. We get out our recipe binder (of recipes I have collected from magazines, blogs, etc over the years) and our Mark Bittman “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” and flip through and pick out recipes that we want to try….. or recipes that will utilize some ingredients that we already have and that need to be used.
Then we make out a grocery list and go grocery shopping for the remaining items we need.
We try to only go to the grocery store once or twice a week because it cuts out the temptation to buy unnecessary/unhealthy items (thus saving money).
My lunches are usually pretty easy because I typically eat left overs for lunch (which is a nice thing about cooking most of your meals), so we really just focus on planning out dinners for the week/weekend.
I usually jot down our planned meals on this notepad because its simple and easy and we can keep the notepad on our table or kitchen counter:
|[photo from http://kelseynixon.com/%5D|
however, there are so many methods of being organized with your meal planning.
if you type “meal planning” into the pinterest search bar you get TONS of results.
here is a great resource for putting together a meal planning binder (complete with free printables!). Some people use binders, some use chalkboards, some use printed out calendars that they hang on their refrigerator, and some people use virtual means of planning (apps, websites, etc). Its just a matter of finding what works best for you.
While some websites have suggestions on meal planning for months (or even a year) at a time; I really recommend planning meals out on a weekly basis so that you can make your plan based on things you already have (and that needs to be used before it spoils), any particular cravings you are having, or what fruits & veggies are currently in season & readily available.
Planning weekly and grocery shopping once or twice a week helps eliminate wasted foods (or fresh produce that may go bad before you have the chance to use it) and it allows you to plan things according to your schedule so that you can factor in going out to eat for special occasions, etc. It also allows you to be more flexible if you need to switch Tuesday’s meal for Wednesday’s due to someone working late or because the avocados aren’t ripe enough yet.
However, keep in mind that weekly meal planning is not for everyone.
One of my FAVORITE bloggers, Frugally Sustainable, admits that meal planning in advance doesn’t necessarily work for her; instead she plans her meals 24 hours in advance based on the following:
- what grains, beans, or meat we have a lot of
- what leftovers we have that need to be used before spoilage
- what meals we’re in the mood for
- what the weather will be like
- what fresh veggies we have from the CSA or backyard garden
- what the next day’s schedule is like
[to read more of this post click here to go to the Frugally Sustainable blog]
Her considerations are similar to what we factor in when we weekly meal plan, but her method works for her on a 24-hour-in-advance schedule.
Play around and see what works for you! but keeping track of what you have & what’s in season, while making as few trips to the grocery store as possible will cut down on wasted money and wasted food.