Use a calendar and mini Post-its (or this page marker type of Post-it) to write your meals on. For maximum flexibility, pick meals that work day-after-day whenever possible (or save ideas on the calendar for future reference).
Take an inventory of what ingredients are already in your fridge, freezer and pantry to reduce food waste and avoid unnecessary trips to the store. This will also save time.
Start with a Calendar
Meal planning for an entire month initially may take more time, but once it becomes second nature you should find that it takes less and less time over time – often under an hour for planning an entire month’s meals!
Start by gathering up a blank calendar – any type will work but ideally one made of paper will allow for easier writing/erasing/eraser use. Write out each day in your calendar (including special events like sports practices/games etc), then evaluate your schedule to identify when there will be time to cook.
Start by checking your fridge, freezer and pantry to see which ingredients you already possess – this can save a substantial amount of money when used instead of purchasing new ingredients! When you know what’s there, create a list of what items are missing before going shopping for more.
Once you have your list ready, review weekly sales ads at your favorite grocery stores and online aggregator apps to determine what’s on sale this week. This can help maximize your grocery budget while taking into account seasonal produce and meat that may become available. Try to utilize each item twice throughout the month to minimize leftovers; and stock up when staple items such as rice, frozen vegetables or pasta go on sale in order to save money without waste – shopping the clearance section may provide even better deals than just regularly used staples!
Gather Your Ingredients
Meal planning saves both time and money while making it easier to stick to a healthy diet. By creating a weekly menu and shopping for ingredients needed, meal planning reduces spending on fast food or convenience meals at the end of each day. Meal planning requires some initial effort but if committed you’ll see results.
First, choose recipes that suit your lifestyle and schedule. Think about what your family likes to eat as well as any dietary restrictions or allergies they may have. Additionally, themed nights such as Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays or Sandwich Saturdays could add variety to your weekly menu plan.
When meal planning for yourself or others, having some staple recipes handy can make meal preparation faster and simpler than ever. Have these at your fingertips to make mealtimes effortless.
Select freezer-friendly recipes so you can stockpile meals for later. When planning lunches, focus on creating simple options you can take along, such as grilled sandwiches, quinoa bowls or salads with fresh vegetables and protein.
When selecting recipes, always be aware of expiration dates so as to prevent food waste. Furthermore, look out for items on sale at your grocery store to save some money and money by selecting those on sale.
Use of recipe management apps such as Paprika or Anylist can make creating grocery lists much faster, saving time from having to write them out by hand. Plus, by browsing your refrigerator and pantry first, it helps give an indication of what items may already exist on hand!
Plan a Week at a Time
For beginners to meal planning, creating and shopping from a weekly plan for at least one week should serve as an introduction. This will familiarize yourself with your kitchen and pantry so you know which ingredients you need when doing regular grocery shopping trips.
On your meal planner, mark the days when you plan to prepare each meal. Feel free to leave one or more blank if you know you will dine out or be participating in another activity on that night. Also include an “extra” night for if you find yourself running out of ideas during an especially hectic week; such as Tuna Pasta from your freezer/storecupboard meal options or something quick and easy like an instant pot recipe as an “extra”.
As you plan your weekly meals for your family, take into account their favorite dishes, dietary needs and allergies, budget constraints and time availability to prepare. Experiment with various recipes until finding ones everyone likes; make sure there’s an assortment of proteins, starches and vegetables included as part of each dish’s menu plan.
Once your weekly meals have been planned and completed, take a moment to review your grocery list and note any items you need to buy. It may be beneficial to review each recipe you plan to prepare and jot down any ingredients (such as meat or vegetables) that you don’t already have at home; this will save unnecessary trips to the supermarket.
Prepare a Shopping List
Once you’ve developed a meal plan that meets the needs of both your family and schedule, take an inventory of foods already on hand to reduce food waste and save money. For instance, if feta cheese remains from last month’s dinner can be substituted into another recipe (e.g. couscous/kale salad with blueberries/walnuts and feta).
Be sure to include all of your meal ingredients on a grocery list so that nothing gets forgotten at the store, while also decreasing impulse buys and unnecessary items. Keep your list organized by food categories such as meat, produce and staples with an indefinite shelf life so you can easily compare prices and locate deals.
Consider taking advantage of online grocery shopping services offered by your local stores to save time and money by eliminating travel time to the store, plus you won’t overspend or forget essential food items! It could even help if you tend to overeat!
If online grocery shopping makes you uncomfortable, try creating a “recipe cheat sheet.” Write down some of your go-to meals and their ingredients; this will make meal planning simpler since no time will be wasted searching Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks for ideas. This may take more time initially, but with practice it should become second nature allowing for meal planning for a month in just an hour or less!
Once you’ve created your monthly meal plan and grocery list, it’s time to hit the store! Making one big shopping trip once every month can save both time and money by cutting back on weekly trips.
At the store, it’s always smart to take an inventory of what you already own in order to save both money and reduce food waste. Also keep your eyes peeled for sales; when meat, fresh produce or pantry staples go on sale it can be an ideal time to stock up!
As you plan your meals for the month, keep your family’s preferences in mind when creating the menus. If something doesn’t appeal, switch it out for another night – such as if the plan calls for chicken and mushrooms but your kids are not fond of either ingredient, try switching it out with pasta or another protein source instead.
Once your groceries have arrived, set aside a day for food prep. For larger projects or multiple days of preparation, allowing time for freezing foods that won’t get used quickly as well as making use of all available resources! Using this strategy can make life simpler while simultaneously making nutritious meals accessible each evening – and while this extra planning may require effort it will certainly pay dividends!