I’m always surprised when I talk to people about meal planning, how many people really do not plan at all or have a really hard time sticking to their plan.
Over the years I’ve experimented with many different ways of meal planning. I’ve also had my fair share of times where I just wing it and do not plan at all.
As the kids get older and our schedules get busier, I find meal planning to be extremely important and beneficial. I’ve noticed that when I make time for meal planning, I save a whole lot of time and money and really, who doesn’t want to save time and money?
So, if you’re ready to get you sh*& together and start saving time and money while ALSO eating healthy, nourishing meals with ease then this post is for you!
My Best Tips for Meal Planning
Take Stock of Your Kitchen - So this step is crucial. If you really want to save money, you must first take stalk of what you already have in your kitchen. Make lists of what you have in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Then brainstorm ideas of meals that you can make with the ingredients you already have. If you have a bunch of random vegetables that need to be cooked before they go bad you could make a veggie soup, veggie tacos or a stir fry. You can even google recipes with specific foods such as “pasta and broccoli recipe” or “vegetable casserole”.
Check your Schedule & the Weather for Each Day - Now check your calendar for the week and notice which nights are going to be busier than others. If you have a night filled with sports or other activities, then maybe you could make a crockpot meal in the morning or instant pot dinner at night. If you get out of work early one day or have no plans at night then maybe that is the day you could make something a little more intensive or try a new recipe.
Depending on the weather where you live, it may be helpful to take note of the weather to determine what you will feel like eating. I know on a hot 90 degree day, I will not want to eat a hot soup or chili, but a large salad would really hit the spot. On the other hand, if you notice it’s going to be raining and cold then you may opt to make something hot and comforting like soup or mac and cheese.
Check Sales Flyers & Eat Seasonally - Another great way to really save money is to check your local sales flyers and choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. I really try to focus on eating seasonally and buying organic as much as possible so that’s usually how I choose what items I to buy. If you check your flyers after taking stock of your kitchen, you can really base your meal ideas on the items that are you already have and the ones that are on sale that week.
Keep a collection of your favorite recipes - Create your own binder and fill it with all of your most loved family staple recipes. Each time you try a new recipe and your whole family loves it stick it in your binder. Then when it comes to meal planning you will have a stash of recipes that you know are easy and taste delicious. I also recommend organizing your binder with tabs of different sections such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then the type of meals such as soups, stews, chili, tacos, etc.
Try one new recipe a week - I used to get caught up in wanting to try many different recipes each week. I’d get excited and put 4 new recipes in my meal plan for the week and then by the second recipe I would be feeling exhausted and not want to make it. It can really save you a lot of energy and time if you stick mostly to meals that you know how to make without a recipe or meals that you’ve made multiple times before. It’s best to only try one new recipe a week. If you aren’t one that likes to try new recipes I highly recommend incorporating this into your weekend routine. Make it a goal or challenge to try one new recipe a week. It can really add variety to your meals and keep you excited about cooking healthy meals.
Choose 2 Simple Breakfast Ideas and Rotate Them (same with snacks) - This can be a real game changer. My 2 go-to breakfasts are smoothies and overnight oats. They are both so easy to make and you can make a big batch to keep in your fridge and have them ready to grab and go for the week. You could also make a large batch of scrambled eggs with veggies or some whole grain blueberry muffins. The trick is to only make 2 different breakfasts a week and just rotate them daily. This keeps breakfast simple and assures that you will start your day off right with a nutritious meal.
Only plan for 4-5 nights - I have always naturally done this and it wasn’t until someone told me that they were always throwing out food and not making every item that they planned to make that I realized how helpful this tip could be. By only planning 4-5 nights a week instead of all 7 nights, you are leaving room for nights where you can simply eat leftovers or get take out. I don’t know about you but sometimes things come up or I have a really hard day and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. These are the times when I’m happy I didn’t plan to cook something each night and I happily will order take out or eat some yummy leftovers.
Now that you’ve read my best tips for meal planning you are probably wondering what the best way to go about actually writing out your meal plan? I’m sure there are many ways you could do this. You could grab a notebook, an app or free printable online, but my favorite and easiest way to plan has been using the notes app on my iPhone.
I used to write it out in a notebook, but then I would forget to actually look at the notebook or even worse I’d forget my grocery list at home when I got to the store. I’ve also tried many different apps and just found that they were too slow or too complicated and actually would take me more time than it was worth.
Since I already use my notes app multiple times a day (anyone else obsessed with list making?!?) I started to do my meal planning on it without thinking much about it. It’s really been a game changer in how I meal plan and actually stick to it.
How to Meal Plan Quickly with the Notes App on Your iPhone
Make a list of the ingredients you already have in your kitchen
List the Meals You Can Make with Ingredients You Already Have
List Your 2 Breakfast choices - example: green smoothie and overnight oats or veggie scramble and toast with avocado
Write out items you want to batch cook - this could include 1 large soup, salad, and maybe some grains or roasted veggies
List each day of the week with breakfast, lunch, and dinner underneath
Now rotate your two breakfast ideas under each day
Fill in the lunches by rotating leftovers, salad or soup
Fill in the meal ideas you have for each night (remember to take in consideration your schedule/weather/what’s on sale or in season) leaving at least one night for leftovers and one night for eating out
Make a separate list of ingredients you need to buy to complete your meals
Order groceries online to save time & money. *If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend it, especially if you have kids and rather not take them in the store with you. You will spend so much less money because you aren’t tempted by everything you walk by and you can see your total as you add items so you can always remove items you don’t really need.