Welcome to week three of my How To Manage Your Home (without running on E!) series. In the first two weeks, I gave some basic tips for successful home management and 6 ways to keep your home clean. This week I am venturing into the kitchen to dish out some easy rules of engagement for meal planning. My goal is to help you save money, decrease stress, save time and go to the grocery store less by learning the basics of meal planning.
Meal planning can be challenging whether you have 2 people or 10 in your household. There are so many variables that effect meal planning – homework, extracurricular activities, work events, and unexpected plans to name a few. My goal is to help you move through those things by planning ahead and getting into a routine. So first things first….
1. Establish a day each week that you would like to meal plan and grocery shop. For me, that day is Sunday. Each Sunday I sit down in my kitchen with a paper calendar, a pencil, and notepad to make my grocery list and plan out meals for the week. Now that I have my routine down pat, it only takes me about 20 minutes to plan for the entire week.
2. Using a monthly calendar, I start on my chosen meal planning day (for me, that’s Sunday night) and choose a meal for each night of the next 7 days. When I am planning out the week, I make note of nightly activities like dinner and birthday parties, happy hours, and date nights. That way, I don’t buy food for a night I know we will likely not be eating at home.
BONUS TIP: Have several days that are established go-to meal days, like Friday night is pizza night or Tuesday is taco night. This gives you a little breathing room, and its one less night you have to think up a meal!
3. Then, I go back through the week and begin to make a list of items I will need to purchase in order to make those meals. I literally sit in the kitchen while I am making this list and inventory my pantry and fridge to see what I already have and what I actually need. This will save you both money and time in the long run.
4. What about breakfast and lunch? I can’t stress this enough when it comes to these meals… KEEP.IT.SIMPLE.
For Breakfast, choose go to meals: Cereal & Milk. Bagels & Cream Cheese. Yogurt & Granola.Keep it simple. Make time for it. Eat it. These are staples you can keep around your house, that are quick and easy to prepare and do the job to keep your hunger at bay, and start the day out right. When you are meal planning for the week, make sure you have enough of your family’s go-to breakfast to get you through the week.
For Lunch, make enough food so that you can eat the leftovers from dinner the night before, for lunch the next day. In the morning, your meal is already packed up and ready to go. A no-brainer in the early morning, and a money saver when you compare it to $10 for lunch on the go. I pair leftovers with go-to snacks: a bag of carrots, an apple, a health bar, or a bag of my favorite popcorn. I also make sure that we have enough of these items and make note of any that we need on my shopping list during my meal planning time.
5. After you create your list of food items, it is time to inventory your house for things like toilet paper, pet food, cat litter, paper towels & cleaning supplies. The first time will take you the longest, but after that you will be able to write down things you need as you use them up.
6. Head to the grocery store with your list. Hopefully, this will be your one and only stop for the week!
Are you getting the gist? For breakfast, establish go-to items that you can prepare quickly and easily in the morning. For lunch, eat leftovers and pair them with go-to snack items. Your list will start to look similar each week, and the longer you are in this routine the more second nature thinking through each of these things will become. As you use things up, write those items down on ONE list and get those items on your next trip to the grocery.
Other Tips for Meal Planning Success:
- Keep your monthly calendar on the fridge so everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner.
- Keep ONE LIST in ONE SPOT. (I keep my list on the fridge & buy the notepads with the magnetic strip on the back).
- When an item gets used up, write it down. Train your family to do the same. Your list will be halfway made before you ever sit down to meal plan.
- If your plans change, change the menu. For example, if you end up getting home late on Tuesday night and don’t have time to cook – make Friday’s pizza night on Tuesday and cook your Tuesday meal on Friday. Allow your meal planning to work for you.
Last but not least, one of the most challenging parts of meal planning is thinking up the meals. To aid you in your meal planning journey, I collected my favorite go-to meals to share with you:
<From right to left> 1. Chicken Avocado Burritos, 2. Qunioa Bake, 3. Stuffed Shells, 4. Sausage & Kale Pasta, 5. Salmon Caesar Salad, 6. Spinach & Feta Quiche, 7. Shrimp Scampi, 8. Chicken Dump (makes 10 meals in less than 1 hour!), 9. One Pot Pasta
How do you plan out your meals for the week? What are your favorite go-to meals? I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments section below. And if you like what you see, please share it with your friends.