A key to eating real food is planning ahead. When you have a plan, you are less likely to eat out or to grab overpriced pre-made food at the grocery store. This will save you money and keep you eating what you want to eat, rather than eating for convenience.I do a meal plan for two weeks at a time. That’s because I like to go to Costco and Winco and stock up. I do stop by the store on my “off” week to get fresh produce, because we eat a lot of it and it’s hard to keep it fresh–or to keep it stocked– for two weeks.
How do I meal plan?
1. Inventory. First, I look at what we have in the freezer, fridge and pantry. What meats, grains, and vegetables do we already have? What’s going to go bad? I try to plan meals around those items first.
2. Schedule. I look at my schedule. What do we have going on this week? If we are going to be busy one night, I’m going to need a recipe that comes together really quickly or can be made ahead of time in the crockpot or assembled in the morning like a casserole. Do we have plans for eating away from home? Do I need to plan a meal for the babysitter to make or plan one less meal because our family will be going to a friends house?
3. Plan. Usually a few ideas will have come to me in the above steps. To fill in the rest of the two week plan, I see what we are already planning to eat. I try to plan my meals around a main ingredient: a few meatless dishes, a few with chicken, a few with fish, meat or pork. So, whichever of those categories are lacking, I try to come up with ideas for those meals.For the most part, I don’t plan my side dishes. I just make sure to have a lot of vegetables in the house so there is always something to add on the side.
4. Inspiration. I like a large variety in the meals we eat. So this is the fun part for me! I get out a cookbook or two and definitely grab the iPad to check out new recipes on Pinterest. I like to have a couple of new meals in the rotation.
5. Write it down. I make two columns on my grocery list. One is for “meals” and the other one is a list of items to buy. I go through each recipe and see what’s called for. Since I just inventoried, I know what we’re out of and I write that down.
6. Shop once a week or once every two weeks. This cuts down on extra trips to the store and saves you money. The more you go into stores, the more you end up spending!