Meal planning. Would it surprise you if I said that I dread this task each week? Because I do. I’d much rather come of up with meals on the fly. But, I’ve learned that if I don’t meal plan, I end up spending way more money, using way more time, and eating way less balanced meals (read: no veggies). So, meal planning for me, it is.
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My meal planning spreads have evolved over the months, but the process continues to remain relatively constant.
Create my spread.
I devote one page to meal planning and a second page to my grocery shopping list. For the meal planning page, I include a mini weekly calendar bar, the days of the week where I will put supper meals and a place at the bottom for breakfast, lunch and snack ideas for the week. I focus most of my meal planning on supper, because I will usually eat the same meal for breakfast each day and have leftovers for lunch. Al eats cereal for breakfast and has a sandwich and banana for lunch everyday. So, there’s really no need for us to waste time planning a lot of breakfast or lunch meals. I do try to have a plan for a lunchtime meal just in case we don’t have any leftovers.
On the grocery list page, I create headers for the main departments of Festival Foods – the grocery store where I shop, and a place to keep track of my budget at the bottom.
*Side note: I used to create these meal planning spreads each week, but I recently started laying out a whole month’s spreads at one time. I found this to be pretty efficient and plan to do that going forward.
Check my schedule.
In the mini weekly calendar bar, I jot down any major events that might affect supper plans. (i.e., evening work events, traveling, hosting guests, etc.). I use this information to plan meals accordingly. For example, if I know I am going to be working late at an event, I will plan a crockpot meal. That way, supper will be ready and waiting for when I get home.
Set a budget.
This is very individual based on family size, location, dietary requirements, etc., but I thought it might be helpful to share what we do. We typically set a monthly grocery budget, which I divide into a weekly budget and put into my weekly meal planning spreads. After grocery shopping, I will record how much I spend in that same spread. I try to stay within our weekly budget, however, I don’t fret if we go a little over one week because we will almost always be under another week during the month. I really like this more flexible weekly approach because it allows us to stock up on items if there’s a really good deal and I think it has been a big factor in us (well more likely me) sticking to our grocery budget.
*Side note: Not sure where to start with setting your grocery budget? Iowa has a really helpful tool.
“Shop” my kitchen
I actually do this twice in the meal planning process. I take a quick inventory of what we have in our kitchen before I start meal planning and I am usually looking to see what protein options we have in the freezer and/or what fruits and vegetables we did not use in the week prior. This has been incredibly helpful in reducing our food waste.
The second time I shop my kitchen is when I’m actually making my grocery list. I check to see what ingredients I already have on hand, so we don’t end up purchasing multiples of everything.
Check the ads.
After shopping my kitchen, I’ll pull up the weekly ads on my phone and scroll through what’s on sale. Anything I know for sure that I want to get, I’ll add to my list and put a star next to it to denote that it’s a sale item.
Seek out other inspiration.
By the time I’ve shopped my kitchen and checked the ads, I have a good idea of what protein foods we’ll be having. So, I’ll start to gather ideas based on those protein foods. I’ll look at previous meal plans in my bullet journal, check some of my favorite cookbooks or consult the interwebs to gather inspiration.
Fill in my week’s meal plan.
My go-to meal planning formula is a protein foods, a vegetable and a starchy vegetable/side. Not every meal looks like this, but in general, I try to base my meals around this “formula” when I’m filling in my meal plan.
Add any needed ingredients to grocery list.
As I decide on a meal, I jot down any ingredients that I don’t have on hand on my grocery list. If a meal requires a recipe, I will either mark down the page number (cookbook) or print out the recipe (web) so I can easily access it when I’m ready to cook.
And that is how we …
Win at life. Or, just meal planning. 🙂
P.S. This is my very first printable. So if you have any feedback, please let me know in the comments below.
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