When I think about planning my meals for the week I get way too excited! My take on this is that there are just SO MANY great recipes floating around out there, and with the internet, we have instant access to ALL of them.
I think if we were in an age before the internet existed, my whole outlook on meal planning would have been completely different. For example, I would have had to use things like… a recipe box! Gasp!! I commend those women who still stick to their roots and utilize the trusty recipe box, but it’s just not for me.
My husband doesn’t quite understand my cooking tendencies sometimes, but it is extremely rare that I will ever make the same meal more than once or twice. It drives him absolutely crazy when we have an amazing dish and then it never appears again, but this is because in my mind, there are so many recipes to be made and so little time!! So, why would I waste an opportunity to be adventurous and cook something new? Granted, there are a few tried and true recipes that have slid past my mantra to never become repetitive, but those are few and far between.
I’ve talked to so many women who don’t meal plan for the week and then they find themselves having to run to the store every day or just ending up ordering takeout because it’s way too much of a hassle to plan dinner. If you just set aside 30 minutes once a week, you’ll immensely save yourself both time and money in the long run! To help you tackle meal planning if it’s not something you’re familiar with, I’m going to walk you through my process step by step. At the end of the article, I’ve also provided links to my favorite meal planning printables across the web.
#1. Set aside a block of time once a week .
This might be as quick as 5 minutes or as long as 30 minutes, depending on your situation. If you’re someone who has a collection of rotating recipes that you like to use, your meal planning will be much simpler than someone who likes to look for new recipes each week. If you only have short snippets of time available each day, I would suggest spending 30 minutes one day planning everything out and then the next day doing your actual shopping. That way you don’t have to reserve such a long amount of time.
#2. Figure out how many meals you need to plan for.
At this point in our life, we eat simple breakfasts and have leftovers for lunch, so I really only need to plan for our dinners. After you figure out what YOUR weekly needs will be, look at your calendar for the coming week’s activities and see what your days look like. Maybe you have dinner with friends one night or have to grab a quick bite on the way to a soccer game. It could be that you eat lunch at work so there’s no need to plan for a midday meal or every Friday morning you go out for breakfast. Whatever it may be, every week will bring a different schedule, so sometimes you may need to plan for 8 meals at home or sometimes it may only be 4. I’ve found that with our schedules, I will plan for 3 dinners which provides at least 3 more meals of leftovers, and that will get us through the week.
#3. Assess what’s in your fridge and pantry.
After figuring out how many meals I need to plan for, I go stick my head in the fridge and cupboards to see what we still have. Oftentimes I will buy meat on sale and freeze it to use at a later date, so that’s something I keep in mind when writing out my shopping list. Also, be sure to take inventory of your fruits and veggies and how much longer they might last. They should be incorporated into meals towards the beginning of the week so that nothing goes to waste. Your pantry staples aren’t as likely to be going bad, so when you’re checking through them, just add anything to your list that you may be running low on. Don’t forget to check your spices and any other items that can slip through the cracks!
#4. Choose your recipes!
Like I said before, you may have a go-to bunch of recipes that you rotate between or you may be making new ones each week. Whichever method you’re using, take into account what ingredients you already have and what you would need to purchase. If you’re trying to stick to a weekly grocery budget, you may want to alter your recipes based on your current pantry offerings. Oftentimes one week I will stock up on meat and then the following week I’ll stock up on pantry necessities, that way I don’t have them both on my list the same week, blowing my budget. Kev and I usually spend about $70 on groceries each week, with approximately $20 going to meat, $20 going to produce, $20 going to non-perishables/pantry staples, and $10 going to dairy/eggs. This obviously fluctuates every week depending on my recipes, but for now, that’s the amount we try to stick to! We have a separate budget for hosting people for meals, so in that case our totals go up. If you’re feeling creative, browse Pinterest or your favorite blogs (**Ahem, Kitschen Cat) to add some new recipes to your weekly meal plan!
#5. Plan your shopping excursion!
My house is literally less than 2 miles away from 8 grocery stores. So, every time I think about grocery shopping I have to decide between Kowalski’s, Mississippi Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Rainbow Foods, Super Target, Cub Foods, and Aldi. I am NOT complaining, it’s super uber duper convenient, but it does make things a bit difficult sometimes. In my mind I always want to hit up about 3 stores to get the best deals as well as the products I need, but sometimes it’s just not worth my time. If you’re ok spending a few more cents for the convenience of only going to 1 store, I think it’s worth it. If you do have multiple options like me, get to know them! I have certain things I only like to buy at certain places, so I take that into account when I’m deciding where to go. Another thing I like to do as I’m making my shopping list is to BE SURE TO CATEGORIZE MY ITEMS. There’s nothing more annoying than pulling out my list at the store and having to sift through all the items in order to make sure I didn’t miss any vegetables before leaving the produce section. Even worse, making it back to the front of the store for checkout and realizing you have to head ALLLL the way to the back of the store because you forgot your beloved orange juice. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.
#6. Use cute printables!
Here is a compilation of my favorite printables to inspire you to start your weekly planning.
I hope these tips help point you in the right direction and make weekly meal planning just a bit more enjoyable!!