Meal planning can be pretty daunting at first but relax; it's not that bad! I generally do Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) for dinner meals BUT I still use a meal plan so I know what food to defrost, etc. In addition, I meal plan breakfast and lunch so there is never any food time guess work or last minute trips to the store for a "must" have ingredient at my house.
First, let me discuss some benefits of meal planning. Meal plans mean you'll be:
- Eating out less often and eating pre-packed meals less (this means you'll be eating healthier!)
- taking fewer trips to the grocery store and ALWAYS having the groceries you need (no frustration or $50 "impulse" buys)
- throwing away less produce (you'll use the broccoli you buy if it's on the list--this is a HUGE money saver!)
- enjoying meal variety (no reverting to college quick food days of tacos, sloppy joes, and spaghetti)
- Less stressed. You will never have to freak out at 5:00 because you have NO IDEA what's for dinner.
So how do you meal plan? Follow these steps.
- Start with just one mealtime a week (dinner) and gradually work up to planning breakfast/lunch/dinner. If you over plan at first you'll go crazy!
- Plan a 6 meal week (which leaves wiggle room for left overs or eating out).
- Find 6 dinner recipes you'll want to use for your dinners.
- Get out a calendar and write down the tentative order of what you'll be eating (as a reminder to you and to stave off the annoying "what's for dinner?" questions).
- Look through each recipe one at a time and compare ingredients to your pantry to see what ingredients you have and which you'll need to purchase.
- ONLY write down ingredients you need (and the general necessities like milk, bread, and eggs).
- Grab your coupons and go shopping.
- Only buy what is on your list. No impulse shopping (unless there is an amazing sale like chicken breasts on sale for 1.50 a pound, etc.)
- This is the best part! When it's time for dinner, gather the ingredients (you know, the ones that you definitely have on hand), whip up a delicious and healthy meal, and sit down for a quality meal that cost less!
Happy meal planning!