My last few posts have been leading to this very one, my 5 tips for meal planning. I've mentioned with the last few recipes that I've really tried to make an effort in improving my meal planning skills. I want to minimize the time and effort I spend making healthy meals while maximizing my free time.
Bonus, by better meal planning, I've found that I can save my family more money in our grocery budget. If you try these tips, I promise you'll have more success in approaching grocery shopping and cooking homemade meals. No more, I'm tired, let's just eat out. Instead, you'll have a plan.
5 TIPS FOR MEAL PLANNING
1. Assess Your Pantry
Your meal planning should always start with your pantry/fridge. And I do mean AT your pantry. Don't play the "I think I might have this" game. You'll be frustrated when you have to take a second trip to the grocery store because you in fact did not have it. Your pantry is your base. What vegetables do you have left from the last time you went grocery shopping? What bag of lentils do you have that just keep getting passed over? Build on your base. It's so easy to waste food, but it's important to make a concentrated effort to curb that habit. Pet help is optional.
2. Determine Your Needs
Do you have food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Do you have healthy snacks to eat? Do you have that herb that you love to use? We have a tendency to focus on dinner and to let everything else go by the wayside. When we do this, that's why we become drive-thru dependent. Have a plan for every meal and snack of the day.
3. Pick a Theme
Pad Thai one night, then meatballs, then Tikka Masala? While I love food variety, it's important to realize it's not best to plan your meals just on the whims of what you think you might want. Instead, consider that each dish you make will have a base of certain herbs and ingredients. How can you use those ingredients in multiple ways so that you use ALL of it rather than throwing half of it away? Now the theme doesn't have to last the whole week, but consider how long it takes you to go through those ingredients. For example, in the planning I made for this week, I will need cilantro. I can make about 3-4 different meals with one bunch of cilantro, so I'll use that before picking another theme.
**I love that this has space for planning and for a grocery list. I put stars next to the meals I need to buy groceries for and then list those groceries on the side. The non-starred meals means that I have all of those ingredients. BONUS TIP: Plan when you want to eat out, this will keep you from being tempted by the other nights!
4. Use Your Sunday
Last week I brought use these omelet muffins
and a few weeks before that, these burrito bowls
. When I make these on a Sunday, I have almost all of my breakfast and lunch taken care of for the week. One hour of work saves me having to struggle EVERDAY to put something together for those meals. While I'm taking care of those meals, I could go ahead and chop up some of the vegetables I might want to use for the week.
Listen, I get some of you are probably like, girrrrl, there's no way I'm doing that on a Sunday. If that's you, that's totalllllly cool. For me, half the battle of cooking really is deciding what I want to eat, so even if I don't prep AT ALL, it's still good to have a plan.
How can you re-purpose what you've already cooked to make as a new meal? For example, maybe you made spaghetti one night and you purposely cooked way too much pasta. Then the next day you make a spaghetti casserole,
or you use some olive oil, butter, and veggies to make a new pasta dish. What about cooking two extra cups of rice so that you can use it for fried rice the next day? There are lots of tiny hacks like this that will make you SO happy in the long run. Leave space for leftovers when you're planning. You know how much your family eats, so you should be able to guess if you can get one meal or two meals out of the serving size.
Also, once you've planned out a week, why not store it in an accordion folder or other storage place and then recycle that plan a few weeks later? Luvvs, we don't have to re-invent the wheel every week! P.S. I bought this accordion folder for one dollar in the Target dollar section!
This AMAZING meal planning sheet was brought to you by the super talented Felicia. Tune in tomorrow for a special DIY with it by our luvvly Jessica!
Happy Eats (and Planning!) My Sweets,