Ah the squeaky clean start fresh month of January. I love it hard for so many reasons. I’ve been thinking about this space and how I can be more of help to you guys. One of my most interacted topics here on the blog and social media would be my meal planning. I love that you guys love it and are inspired by the routine! Yet week after week I’m still getting questions on it all, which is so awesome, but I felt like I needed sort of a ‘master guide’ to be able to offer people to that have questions. Sort of a ‘brain dump’ for me to get all my little tips and tricks out. Hopefully one can help you!
To begin, why I meal plan.
I meal plan because I like knowing week by week that I have exactly what I need to feed my family generally wholesome and healthy meals. I go week by week because anything else is too overwhelming. (I could flat out cry thinking about doing an entire month). I feel like seven days is completely manageable, not too much not too little. It does take time upfront, but ultimately meal planning saves time. It saves those extra trips to the grocery store at 5:00PM wandering around trying to figure out what to make. And it saves money. That part is easy: less trips to the store means less money spent. Yippee! I also believe meal planning efficiently helps us from wasting food. Come Saturday my fridge is practically barren. We use almost every ingredient I purchase. A sign of money well spent. Meal planning, in our home, is an effective system that makes our day to day routines that much easier, efficient, and healthy.
What I meal plan.
I know some people that plan out breakfast/lunch/dinner for the week but for how we eat, that is just a bit too complicated for us. For the most part we are generally eating the same few items for breakfast. Think whole wheat waffles, bacon, eggs, yogurt, english muffins, peanut butter, pumpkin bread, fruits, etc. These are just on my master list item week by week. I always buy them. For lunch it’s the same. I pick up the items boys like for their lunches, think cheese sticks, pretzels, salami, gogurts, veggies to prep and so on and so forth. Again, just all part of the weekly master list. For lunch for me, I generally pick up a salad when I am out or eat leftover soup at home for lunch. Pretty easy. Dinner is where my creative side can come in. Happy mama. Each week I view our schedule in advance and plan out how many dinners I will be cooking that week. It’s generally between five and six dinners a week, depending on our calendar. Now it’s time to have some fun. (Or maybe this isn’t fun for you at all, but I promise it will save you time so you can use the saved time for whatever you classify as fun.)
How I meal plan.
Like stated above, I start meal planning with looking at our calendar to figure out how many recipes to search for and buy. This may sound strange too, but I also check the weather forecast. Right now in the dead of winter it’s a little silly, but if there is a random seventy degree day in March and I planned cheesy chicken pot pie, well, you better believe we are firing up the grill instead. So that’s my next step, checking our calendar and the weather. I normally do this a day or two before my meal planning day, which is Sunday. So around Friday or so I begin working on the upcoming week. Once I have how many recipes I want to make, the searching begins.
I find my recipes through three sources: my own blog, Pinterest, and cook books. I try to mix things up each week between recipes we know and love and recipes I want to test out for ourselves and for blog content. I always enjoy this part so much.
From there I’ve got a pretty solid plan. I know how many dinners I need to shop for and I know what recipes I will be cooking. This normally is all done prior to Sunday. Getting a head start on this part really helps and makes the actual grocery shopping day that much easier.
Sunday morning the process continues. This is when I make my list which is a mix of our go to weekly stock items and the ingredients I need to cook the five or so recipes for dinners for the upcoming week. I write it all out. During this process is when I also clear out and clean my fridge. This prevents silly things from happening like, buying another green pepper for marinara when you already have one sitting in there. Like I mentioned above at this point my fridge is pretty barren so this part doesn’t take long. I dispose of anything that has gone bad that we didn’t get to (rare), take items out that are still good, wipe everything done, and put them back. And since I’m doing this process weekly, my fridge is never really that dirty to begin with. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to arrive home from a large grocery shopping trip to a cleaned out almost empty fridge to restock. Life changing!
So at this point we’ve got a plan. We’ve got a list. We’ve got a clean fridge. Yippee! The process is almost complete. All that’s left is to get the groceries. Depending on the week and my schedule I vary where and when I go but it’s almost always Sunday mornings and my preference is to hit up Heinens. Occasionally if we are traveling or I need another grocery run for some stock items or I’m stuck at baseball (ahem) I will use the Instacart App for grocery delivery. For those of you who don’t have the time to actually grocery shop or don’t enjoy it (I happen to love it) this would be a great time saver for you!
All that’s left is my least favorite part: unloading the car and putting everything away for the week. Is there an app for that? 😉
So you see, you do need to commit some time upfront to the whole process but when spread out over a few days it’s really not that much and it saves you so much time and headaches in the long run! I’ve also found it helps to really keep up with it weekly. You’ll find your groove and hey who knows, you might even begin to enjoy it. Simply check your calendar in advance, search for recipes, make your list, clean out your fridge, grocery shop, stock, repeat. You’ve got this.
Next Sunday I am starting a new system of sharing my weekly mean plan with you all. I’ve heard from many that my newsletter is helpful because it prompts you all to remember to go into the blog. Now on each Sunday, I will be sending out a mini weekly newsletter – don’t worry, it won’t be too much! But it will having my whole meal plan for the week set up for you. So if you’re interested and not on the mailing list, you can sign up right here! Just so you know this will be the only space to get my weekly meal plan, it will no longer be published to the blog.
Form that point throughout the week on Instagram I will be cooking through the recipes so you can follow along and even cook with me, if you’d like. How fun.
I hope you find this system helpful and I am so happy to answer any further questions you may have about our meal planning system. Stay tuned for my first menu plan newsletter coming out next week!