Editor’s Note: Enjoy this bonus article from yesterday’s post!
For as long as I can remember, my mom planned her meals each week, and this discipline is something she has passed on to me. Calling meal planning a discipline might seem surprising, but I think it’s accurate because I need to choose to do it. Many times, I don’t approach it cheerfully, and it’s not my favorite part of a weekend, but I do it because I’ve seen the benefits firsthand.
Here are just a few of them. Meal planning helps me budget well and manage our grocery funds. By planning out the whole week of meals, I can balance a meal that might have more costly ingredients with one later in the week that is cheaper, or I can share ingredients across recipes to avoid waste. It helps me manage my time by allowing me to make a single trip to the store each week rather than running out multiple times because I need something. It helps me make healthy meals for my family and eases the nightly stress of “What am I going to make for dinner?!
If managing money, time, health, and stress is important to you as well, I’m happy to pass on what my mom passed on to me about meal planning, plus a few tools that help me.
I grocery shop on Mondays, so sometime between Friday and Sunday, I start meal planning. Sometimes I do it in one sitting, but often I do it over a few shorter chunks of time. Usually, I get my plan down on paper first (using something like this), but ultimately the whole plan goes in my recipe app, Paprika, which I mentioned yesterday.
- I begin by reviewing my week and noting nights that I need quick meals. For those nights I review my quick recipes in Paprika and schedule meals.
- Second, I review what the leftover situation is in the refrigerator and what needs to be used soon; then I plan when to use them. “Leftover night” is also great for a quick dinner.
- Third, I review the sale ad for the grocery store to find sales that I might want to take advantage of.
- Fourth, I look at my saved food blog posts for new recipes I might want to try. I use Feedly to track blogs I follow and have a board just for recipes. I bring up the new recipe in Paprika, save it to my database, and then schedule it for the night I want to make it. I try to schedule new recipes for evenings when I know I’m going to have a bit more time to prep if needed.
- Finally, I fill in the gaps of remaining meals that haven’t yet been addressed in the previous steps. I try to consider cuisine and aim for variety.
Once my meals are planned, I use Paprika to form my grocery list, being sure to remove items I already have in the pantry. To that grocery list, I then add anything else I might need to restock the house (eggs, bread, yogurt, paper towels, etc). Then I shop.
The disciple of meal planning might take work, but it’s well worth it to me. And the best part is that once it’s finished, I’m done for the week and can just enjoy a fully-stocked refrigerator and avoid the what’s-for-dinner-scramble! If you are not currently planning your meals, let me encourage you to give it a try and see if it doesn’t become something you too regularly do.