Planning your meals ahead of time not only saves money, but it helps you eat healthier and reduce food waste. Learn how to meal plan like a pro with these expert tips from our chefs!
Begin slowly and build upon your meal planning abilities over time. While it may require more effort at first, a meal plan can truly make a difference for you and your family.
Organize Your Pantry
An organized pantry can make meal prep faster and help you stay on track with your nutritional goals.
Start by organizing your food into categories and group similar items together to save space. Then, arrange the shelves according to use; keep frequently used items like cooking oils and condiments at eye level so you can grab them quickly without having to look around for them.
Once you’re finished sorting, label the shelves to make them easy to locate. Also be sure to note expiration dates so you know when items should be used up before they spoil.
When storing large or bulky items, bins and baskets can be helpful. These can be stacked or placed atop each other to maximize your storage capacity.
Another way to organize your pantry is by using shelf risers or inserts. These enable you to maximize the height of your shelves and create compartments for canned goods or other oversized items that may not fit into standard bins. Plus, having clear shelves allows you to see all of your stock at a glance, saving time and effort when making decisions about what to use next.
You can make better use of vertical space in your pantry with single and tiered turntables. These are great for items that are heavier or taller than other foods, like boxes of dry pasta and bread.
In addition to organizing your pantry, it is wise to create a meal plan for your family. Doing this will help you avoid overbuying and wastage of food items.
Planning your menu for the week requires taking inventory of what’s in your kitchen and creating a list of foods you need for each day of the week. You can do this on paper or with an app on either your phone or computer.
Once you’ve made a shopping list, double-check the ingredients for each meal to make sure they’re available at home. That way, you won’t have to run to the store or Trader Joe’s when in need.
Make a Shopping List
A grocery list is an indispensable element of any meal planning strategy and will help you save money by not buying unnecessary items. Additionally, it guarantees that you don’t run out of basic ingredients before shopping at the store.
To begin creating a grocery list, take inventory of what’s in your refrigerator and pantry. Be sure to include any items near their expiration dates or that are running low completely.
Next, arrange your items by type or category (fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, canned goods). It can help organize these by the aisle layout at the supermarket so you can quickly identify where everything is situated.
Depending on your personal preference, you may prefer to keep your shopping list digitally on your phone or PDA and then print it off each week when you get home. This way, you can quickly review the list to make sure everything is covered when entering the store.
If you prefer a more visual approach, create a list that categorizes your items according to where they’re stored at home. This can be especially beneficial if you have multiple food storage locations such as in the basement or garage.
Some people opt for a straightforward color code system, such as red, yellow and green; while others rely on more complex systems like alphabetical order. Ultimately, it is important to find what works best for you and your environment.
Every week, take some time to review your grocery list and make necessary changes. Doing this allows for double-checking purchases and avoiding impulse buys.
AnyList, a popular app available on iOS and Android, helps you stay organized by organizing shopping lists, saving favorite items, browsing recent grocery trips, and sharing them with friends. It’s an invaluable way to stay productive even when on-the-go!
AnyList is an intuitive tool that automatically suggests items as you type. It’s available as a free download on the App Store, and you can share lists with as many people as desired – they’ll be instantly visible across all their devices.
Make a Meal Plan
Meal planning is an efficient way to stay on track with your nutrition while saving time and money at the same time. It involves creating a menu, selecting meals, and making a shopping list before heading out grocery shopping.
Meal planning can be done in many ways, but the most effective approach is to craft a menu tailored to your lifestyle and eating habits. Include both quick-fix meals that will last throughout the day as well as more elaborate dishes that can feed several people at once.
Before you begin, take into account your schedule and the ingredients already in your pantry or freezer. Doing this helps avoid buying unnecessary items that will end up in the trash.
Plan meals around sales at your local grocery store to save money. Most stores advertise weekly specials on their websites or apps; if you don’t have access to those sites, apps like Flipp can show what is on sale.
Once you know what foods are in your kitchen, it’s time to begin researching recipes. This is an excellent way to discover new dishes that fit within your dietary restrictions and cooking experience.
If you’re new to cooking, start with simple meals that require minimal ingredients and effort. As your confidence in the kitchen grows, you can progress onto more challenging recipes and techniques.
Once you’ve selected your meals, take note of them on a notepad or in an app on your phone or computer. Do this in whatever order makes sense for you.
Be sure to include all ingredients necessary for each recipe and any side dishes you plan on serving. Doing this makes creating a grocery list much simpler and helps prevent you from buying food that you already have on hand, which can be wasteful!
If you’re trying to lose weight, adding a calorie counter can help keep track of how many calories are eaten each day and ensure that you remain within your daily caloric allowance.
Create a Menu
Meal planning makes it easier to maintain healthy eating habits and minimizes food waste. Furthermore, it saves time and money at the grocery store.
Begin by making a list of meals your family enjoys eating, taking into account any dietary needs or preferences. With this handy, you can search for recipes using ingredients already in your pantry.
When planning your menu for the week, take into account how leftovers can be utilized throughout the week. Doing this helps reduce food waste and gives you more time to spend with your family.
Another helpful tip is to create “theme nights” during the week. Examples of such dinner options could be Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday or Sandwich Saturday. Not only does this allow for more variety in your meals without taking up too much room in your fridge and pantry, it will help you use up leftover ingredients more efficiently.
Once you have your theme nights chosen, narrow down the recipes that fit your family and lifestyle. This is essential when creating a meal plan as it can help prevent overbuying or purchasing foods no one likes.
Keep your shopping list short and straightforward, so that it’s simple to locate everything at the grocery store and cook quickly. Additionally, add ingredients that can be stored in the freezer for later use.
To ensure your family enjoys meals each week, select a few go-to recipes that everyone will enjoy and make them part of your rotation. Doing this helps prevent repeating recipes too often which could lead to boredom with meals.
You can involve your kids in the menu planning process to motivate them to try new foods and expand their palate.
By creating a weekly menu for your family to follow, you can help eliminate the temptation to buy unhealthy snacks at the supermarket. Planning ahead helps ensure that everyone gets enough nutrients while abstaining from unhealthy treats.