Meal planning–do you perk up or cringe? It depends on my mood. For most of our married life, I have been diligent about planning meals weekly. While it can feel like “another chore” and I go through seasons of feeling totally un-inspired about meals, it has saved us lots of money and time in the long run. Through the years I’ve figured out some tips that have helped me that I’ll share here.
- Pick a day to meal plan and make your grocery list–the two go hand-in-hand. For me, it’s Monday, the day before I shop. Stick to this weekly routine!
- Find the best way of making a grocery list. I use the AnyList app for my grocery list. So handy! It’s on my phone, and I have several permanent lists: grocery list, Target list, packing list, to name a few. You enter items and they stay on your list until you delete them. Every week I take a look at my existing list, mark items to buy, add items, and hide items I don’t need to buy that week. This saves a ton of time instead of going through cupboards or the fridge and trying to compile a weekly grocery list.
- Find the best way of making your weekly meal plan. I use a little dry-erase board marked with the days of the week. I picked it up in the $1 spot at Target. I keep it posted on the fridge. (Michael likes to check each morning what to expect for dinner later that day). In each day spot I write what’s for dinner, any sides, and any special notes (ie, crockpot, dinner guests, or evening plans).
- Keep a stash of recipes handy. My biggest stash is my Pinterest board called What’s Cookin’. I can easily check ingredients, double-tap over to AnyList and add them, double-tap back to my Board, and keep building the weekly menu.
- Taylor your weekly meal plans to your weekly routines. Michael teaches an evening class at the college Tuesday nights, so I always get something quick, easy, and kid-friendly (mac n’ cheese, pizza, etc). Weekends can be wild cards, with friends inviting us over last minute or taking day trips that involve eating out later. So I plan meals that require no meat defrosting/prep, and can be saved for another night if we’re not home (Hawaiian-roll grill cheese, packaged tortillini, etc). On nights when Westly has a sport practice or I have a late afternoon appointment, I use my crockpot so dinner is ready when we get home just before dinner time.
- Have fun with the weather and the season. I like to include seasonal ingredients if I can, like corn on the cob in the summer and root veggies in the winter. When making my meal plan, I’ll also check the weather for the week on my app. If I see that we’re in for some cold or rainy weather, I’ll do a soup or stew one night. If I see that we’re in for a hot spell, I’ll plan meals that don’t require using the oven, which heats up our house!
With my AnyList app, dry-erase board, calendar, and Pinterest Board at the ready, meal planning literally takes me 20 min or less. And it has saved me so much time–I grocery shop once a week, and rarely have to go back to a store mid-week. I don’t have to put much thought or planning into our dinner each day because it’s already planned out ahead of time. I don’t have to frantically search the kitchen and try to ‘whip something up’ because my kitchen is stocked with the ingredients I bought for the planned meals. And it’s saved us money–we’re able to stick to our monthly ‘eating-out-budget’ instead of eating out unnecessarily because dinner wasn’t planned. I buy what we need for the week and no more. A little planning can go a long way!