I have had several questions from others about how I can plan all my meals for a week and only shop once a week. I’m going to attempt to explain how I do it. I really think that meal planning is one way to cut down on your grocery bills. I have been reading this blog on budgeting, which is helping me to keep going. Being on 1 income is making this process much more important.
1. I take a little piece of paper and write a letter for each day of the week (usually 5-7 days). I take another piece of paper and start a grocery list. I put any staple items we are out of down first (flour, butter, etc.). I have tried fancier ways of doing this (palm pilot, special notebook, Google Calendar type stuff) but they are too complicated and give me a headache.
2. I try to think of at least 2 meals that use what I already have. If I need a few more ingredients, I write those on the grocery list.
3. I then get out my recipe binder and cookbooks and try to fill in the other days of the week with meal ideas (just dinners). I try to alternate chicken with beef or pork recipes, and add one day of vegetarian and one of fish. Another thing I do that helps when I hit an inevitable brain freeze is go to some old standbys: breakfast night, spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers. As I add a meal, I also add all the ingredients I don’t have on hand to my list.
4. What the final meal plan looks like will depend on how energetic I am feeling. Some weeks I try 2 or 3 new recipes, some weeks it is all old standbys. What matters most is that I have a plan.
5. I hang the plan on the fridge, add lunch / breakfast and snack items to the grocery list, and go to the store!
6. I try not to go to the store A: Hungry* or B: With Wes or especially C: A Hungry Wes
Keep in mind that I got the planning gene, but it only applies to long-term planning (like thinking past today). I have been meal planning like this since my second year of college. I just made a plan of all the races I am going to do next year. I plan goals for each year and plan trips a month ahead of time or more. Yup – I have the planning gene.
However, when it comes to planning out what to do each day, I am a total mess. This is why I can’t find my keys and often say I’ll be in two places at the same time. For instance, *today I went to Costco hungry, with Abi. When you leave the house at 10:30 to do errands, you should think about lunch, but I don’t/can’t. What happened was a little victory. They had all the sample people out at Costco. So, Abi got a free lunch with lots of variety and I had enough snacks to keep me going until we got home. We stayed on budget. Yay!
I think I will add a post in a few days about two other tips for meal planning. Despite doing a weekly plan for a while, I still have trouble buying enough lunch and snack food. Comment with any questions / suggestions and I will try to answer in the next post!