Happy Monday, friends! Hope your weekend was amazing and restful! Let’s talk meal planning! We know it’s valuable and can save us stress throughout the week but how do we really start and implement it when we haven’t for a while or have never done it. I’m going to go through a few tips today to help you start and hopefully stick with a meal planning routine.
First things first, look at your schedule. Do you have a few nights a week where you’ll be busy at kids activities or sports during dinner and you’ll need something easy and on the go? Do you have a regular date night planned every week and won’t necessarily need to cook that night? Does work buy lunch on occasion and that could mean you won’t have to bring lunch for a day or two? These are the kinds of things you can look at to see which nights you’ll need to cook, and which nights you’ll actually have time to cook. Once you nail that down, you can see how much food you’ll actually need and what kinds of recipes to look for.
So from here there are two ways to plan out your meals during the week. You can be super specific and plan all your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks out, that way you know what you’ll specifically need to do in terms of prep for each of those meals and you’ll know exactly what your grocery list should be. OR you can make a few favorites each week and see what you feel like having from night to night.
Plan everything out
So the first one, planning everything out. I tend to do this more often than not, just because I like having everything planned out. I like to know what I need to meal prep for, what specific groceries to have on hand, how long each meal is going to take, and it personally helps us save money because we usually don’t have a lot of food waste. So I cook most nights of the week, however I do schedule 2 ‘leftover’ nights each week because inevitably we will have leftovers that don’t get eaten up and this allows us to go through what we have and eat up any leftovers sitting in the back of the fridge that we forgot about. We’ve all had that thing happen where we go in the fridge to see what’s in there and suddenly find a nice fuzzy mold garden growing in a couple of the tupperwares and we have no idea how long they’ve been in there. So we like to try and prevent that as much as possible by scheduling specific leftover nights. Now usually those nights land on nights when maybe I have an appointment at 5 and I know I won’t have a ton of time to make dinner, or Andrew and I decide to go out on a date and we have leftovers for the sitter and Madeleine.
We try to schedule those leftover nights around what’s going on in our schedule week to week. One other thing that planning each meal out helps with, is I know I can make a little extra of whatever that dish is and we’ll have leftovers for lunch. That’s also another way we keep the mold garden from popping up; we both eat leftovers almost every day for lunch because it’s quick and easy and often it’s cheaper because we don’t have to buy extra ‘lunch specific’ groceries.
Planning w/ staples
Now the second way to plan is to just make a few staples ahead of time and eat whatever of those staples you want on any given day. I know many people aren’t planners and don’t really know if they’ll want tacos on Tuesday or Wednesday and want to see how they’ll feel that day to determine what they’ll eat. That’s totally fine, you can absolutely do that, but you still need food on hand to make whatever you want on that night, right? So a way to do this is to think about what you like to eat. Are there any recipes you know you and your family love? What kinds of snacks do you like to have on hand? If you know your kid’s soccer game is happening at 6pm on Wednesday, could you pack sandwiches for dinners for everyone ahead of time so you can just grab and go to the game? Things like this, where you can loosely plan ahead but it doesn’t have to be to stringent and to the letter.
Ok, so now that you’ve looked at your schedule and decided how you want to plan (specifically or loosely), I want you to pick a certain day of the week to plan out your meals. This can be on the weekend before you go grocery shopping or it can be during the week when you have some extra time. But either way, you need to make a habit of sitting down and scheduling out your meals or quickly writing out what you want to eat that week, and do it on the same day every week. By making it a habit on the same day each week, you’ll find over time that meal planning will become part of your normal routine and it’ll feel off if you don’t get it done. I personally like to plan on Thursdays because then I can take Friday morning and go grocery shopping. It’s usually less busy, I can enjoy my weekends without needing to use up a ton of time to go grocery shopping, and the samples at Costco on Fridays are amazing! 😆
One of the best tools I’ve found for meal planning is this online program called Plan to Eat. It’s a super simple way to have all your favorite recipes in one spot, and they give you calendar that you literally just drag and drop your recipes onto to plan them out. Super easy and kinda fun. But my favorite thing about this program is that once you drag and drop your recipes, it automatically populates your grocery list with the ingredients from the recipes you scheduled. So you don’t have to write everything down after each time you plan a recipe; it’s already in a shopping list for you! And they have a great app so the list is with you wherever you go. This program is amazing and I use it every week and it’s helped meal planning become easier, less stressful and much quicker. You can also get the first 30 days free to test out which is awesome, and once you’re convinced it’s around 5 dollars a month or 3 dollars a month if you pay for the whole year up front. Very affordable, reliable and easy to use. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here!
Hope these tips help you guys out and look forward to next week’s post about how to become more efficient in your meal prepping once you’ve meal planned. Have a great week!