A meal plan is the plan of action we come up with before we hit the supermarkets. The purpose is to have an organized menu plan that both saves us time and chaos in the kitchen. It also avoids wasting food and blowing up our grocery budgets. Some come up with a monthly menu, some a weekly menu and others play it day by day. It is important to note that meal planning and prepping will not look or work the same for everyone. What is effective for me may not be effective for you and your family. There is no benefit in comparing planning and prepping methods and/or styles. Find a system that works for you and stick with it. If you have been interested in meal planning but are not sure where to start, I have come up with some helpful tips to help steer you in the right direction.
Browse for Inspiration
Take some time to find recipes on a weekly basis. Pin any candidates on Pinterest, favourite some blog recipes, save posts on Instagram, and/or bookmark the pages in cookbooks. Asking family & friends for their favourite recipes is also a great resource.
Decide what Meals you Need Planned Out
Some like a full schedule mapped out including what will be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I personally enjoy winging breakfast and snacks. I usually just plan out dinners and a couple of lunches since leftovers always serve us well here.
Use What you Have
Go through your kitchen. Write down recipe foundation items you already have in stock. I personally pay attention to what proteins (dried or canned legumes, hemp hearts, nuts/seeds and their butters, tofu, any animal proteins, anything in the freezer), and what grains I already have (pasta or stir fry noodles, rice, quinoa, oats, flours, etc.). I then proceed to plan my menu based on what I already have at home. This may sound tedious but it ensures I actually use what I have in stock-no wastage and it’s been saving me boatloads of money.
Organize Theme Nights
Theme nights are a popular meal planning tactic. For example Mondays can be Meatless Monday. Tuesday can be Mexican. Wednesday could be pasta, Thursday a curry dish, and Friday can be pizza night. It can really help when narrowing down those recipe searches when you at least know what type of dish you are looking for.
The Grocery List
Once you have your completed meal plan written out in front of you, you can then proceed to making your grocery list. Mark down all ingredients (and how many of each) you’ll need to create each meal. I highly recommend doing this instead of just assuming that you have certain ingredients in stock or that you have enough of an item. Nothing is worse than needing a ½ cup of an ingredient and when the time comes you actually only have a drop or a pinch. Head to your kitchen and physically scope out your stock. Mark down any and all ingredients you will need to purchase.
Stick to the List
Once you do hit the supermarket, only purchase items that are on your list. You have planned out every last ingredient you will need for the week, nothing else should make into that cart! You will be amazed at how much money you can save by staying faithful and committing to your grocery plan.
Save your Favourite Recipes
Always save the meals that are a hit. Pinterest is a great resource as well as just saving blog links to your favourites on your phone. This list will become your go-to list. You’ll want to fall back on them on those weeks when you are pressed for planning time, are craving a favourite, or just aren’t feeling like tackling new recipes. The more favourites you save, the more plan recycling you can do….this is the goal. Put in the work now and a few months down the road you’ll be laughing.
Bonus-Saving all the Money
I mentioned a few tricks above that have been keeping me well under budget. On top of those tedious yet super rewarding tasks, I have also been saving a lot of cash by cutting down tremendously on the animal products. I am not here to spark a debate on diet or lifestyle choices but I will say that all plant based proteins are the fraction of the cost than any animal protein. Adding more vibrant vegetables, legumes and organic non-gmo tofu into our meals had me high on the cost difference.