Three days until December — the month many would call the most busy and least healthy month of the year. Enter meal planning. A little planning ahead and coordination is a big step in the right direction.
Why plan meals? It’s healthier. Planning ahead means fewer trips to the drive through and more nutrients overall. It’s easier. Meals come together faster when you have all the ingredients on hand. And it makes living in community that much simpler. Just call to invite your friends to join you for pasta on Wednesday — because you know you’re having pasta and you already bought it. Piece of cake.
In hopes of helping you build or better your own meal planning process, I’m sharing mine. Check out part one here.
4. Grocery list.
Some weeks, I’ll hit up Trader Joe’s — for Two Buck Chuck and frozen goodies and fantastic cheese — and HyVee. Other weeks, I only have time to visit one. Throughout the week, I keep a running list of what staples we’ve finished or almost finished. This includes things like spices, paper towels, olive oil, milk, cereal, etc.
Then I get a larger piece of paper for the master grocery list. Sidebar — there are some awesome grocery shopping smartphone apps. Go for it. I’ve tried a few, but never fell in love with one over another. I review the ingredients for each of the week’s recipes. If I don’t have something, I write it on the list. My list has four categories: 1.) produce (store entrance), 2.) meat and cheese, 3.) canned + boxed + packaged items and 4.) dairy and frozen foods.
5. Grocery shopping.
When did grocery shopping get such a negative reputation? This should be fun, really! Try shopping at a time when things aren’t crazy-busy. I try to avoid early evenings (5:30 is especially sensory-overload) and Saturday mornings. And not that I haven’t grabbed chips and salsa on a whim myself . . . but with a super-gorgeous list, impulse buys are easier to avoid. Sticking to the list helps save money.
Also, Mr. S. and I (after about six months of me swiping the credit card far too much) use the cash system. It’s easy to buy only what’s on my list when I have limited funds with me. Not for everyone, but only bringing the cash you want to spend is worth a try if you need to tighten the purse strings a bit.
6. At home.
Unpack the groceries and freeze the meats you’ll use later in the week. Put your meal plan in a place you can easily see it. We have a way-too-cute chalkboard in our kitchen, so I get excited about displaying it there. Then, it’s easy to review in the morning and plan for the evening.
7. At the end of the week.
Transfer your meal plan to your dinner diary. I’ll make a brief note sometimes, things like “More sriacha,” or “Less salt.” When it’s something either Mr. S. or I simply loved, I’ll put a little star by it. After a few weeks, this journal will help build better meal plans for the future. Page through for inspiration, or simply pick a previous week when pressed for time.
That’s what meal planning looks like for me. It doesn’t have to look the same for you — after all, it’s your kitchen.
Meal planning matters because you matter, your community matters and the bread you break together sets the stage for precious relationships.
Your turn! What tips and tricks have you learned for meal planning?