A few years ago I was challenged by a friend of mine to start meal planning for the week. This has been a true GAME CHANGER for our family’s budget and time management. (Notice the all caps!) We used to be go to the store multiple times a week to run out and get ingredients. I would find it would be time for dinner and have no idea what I was going to make. I’ve discovered there are five important components to being successful at meal planning.
- Meal Plan. I make out a list of ALL the meals and snacks I will be cooking that week. An example of a week’s dinner meals includes: Sweet potato chili, Thai salad, guacamole, potato asparagus salad, spaghetti. Snacks/desserts: date balls and cookies. Breakfast and lunch: acai bowls, PBJ sandwiches, and leftovers from dinner. After making my list of meals, I go through my cabinets and refrigerator and make note off all the ingredients I need to purchase, categorized by store.
- Do a Big Grocery Shop. We typically shop at 3 stores: Trader Joes, Costco, and Whole foods. I save the list on my hubbies phone and simply “un-click” the bullet point for the items we buy weekly, and add/delete items as needed. An example of our Costco list for a week includes: 2 packages of acai, dates, frozen blueberries, and eggs.
- Meal Prep. I didn’t quite grasp the beauty of meal prep in high school. I remember my mom cooking dinner first thing in the morning and being so relieved that dinner was made. Some mornings I make sweet potato chili at 6:30 am and do a happy dance as my husband puts the spices in. Sometimes I prep on the weekends, other times I prep during my daughter’s nap. I don’t always have the entire meal prepped, but often do a part. For example, I can prepare the salad dressing in advance . When I look at my meal plan and see I need to soak cashews overnight for a cashew cream pasta sauce, I am not surprised on pasta night. I’ve soaked the cashews, prepared the cream during my daughters nap, and only have a few steps left prior to dinner time.
- Double the recipe. One other thing I’ve learned is to double or sometimes triple recipes. If a recipe such as veggie burgers is super labor intensive, I’m going to make more and my family will eat off it multiple times during the week. Also, our family likes lots of sauce and dressing. So I always drouble/triple salad dressing recipes or pasta sauces.
- The Leftover Jam. Leftovers are truly our family’s jam! The majority of the time, our lunch is leftover from dinner the night before. This allows less expenses for food and helps us waste less food.
- This last one is a bonus! Let your kiddos help in the kitchen! It’s fun for them and teaches them good skills like teamwork and following directions.
I will say that I’ve learned to do things through a ton of trial and error. Too many times in the past I realized I didn’t have the ingredient I needed or forgot to soak something. And sometimes I still do forget a key ingredient by overlooking a recipe. I usually make adaptations and move on. After all, everyone has to eat and the clock is ticking towards dinner time.
Have you ever meal planned or prepped, Mama? Share some of your favorite meals to make! I’d love to hear from you!