I am a meal planner. I don’t know how to not meal plan. If I went to the grocery store without a list, I have no idea what kind of crap I would come home with but I am betting that it would be heavy on chips and chocolate and light on ingredients needed to make well-balanced meals for our family. I find that meal planning makes it way easier to go to the grocery store less often and helps keep food waste way down around here. I usually go to the store or order from Instacart once a week on Monday
Here is how I do it…
Every Sunday night (usually while watching TV), I take out my laptop and get into my Pages (it’s like Microsoft Word) document and decide what we are going to have for dinner the next week. The first thing I do is look in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what I need to use. This week is penne pasta, frozen hamburger meat, corn and cashew nacho cheese (my new obsession). Here is what we are having this week:
Monday- Sweet potato and quinoa fritters, fruit and roasted broccoli
Tuesday- Brown rice bowls with black beans, corn, avocado, and cashew nacho cheese
Wednesday- Mom goes out with friends (frozen pizza & fruit for boys)
Thursday- Cauliflower tacos, refried beans, corn, tomato and avocado salad (cilantro & cashew nacho cheese)
Friday- Penne & meatballs
Based these meals, I go through and list out all of the things that I need to buy to make the meals listed above below them in the same document and add in all of the stuff that we always have/need in our kitchen are running low on i.e. bananas and orange juice. I usually keep a post it my the fridge for other random things that we are out of that I know I will probably forget and I add those into the word document.
This week it looked like this:
Medium yellow onion
Pico de gallo
Italian parsley (freeze in olive oil for meatballs)
Frozen pizza for boys
Coconut ice cream
Rice cakes for Lucy
I like to organize my grocery list by the way that I walk around the grocery store- first the fruit part of the produce department, then the veggies, cold/dairy, dry grocery, frozen section… you get the picture. Now, you will see that there are somethings on there that aren’t required to make any of the dishes above- these are the post-it items.
One of the best ways to keep to your list is to not cook anything too complicated, especially on weeknights. Let’s say Tuesday comes around and your weekly menu says that you’re supposed to make Julia Child’s chicken a l’orange but your toddler decides that he is going to scream at you until you play pirates with him when it’s time to get cooking. You’re probably going to say “f@*! it” and order pizza and that chicken is going to get thrown out or tossed in the freezer. Making things that don’t require a ton of prep time or that can be prepped in advance makes it a lot easier to stick to your list.
In summation, here are my “rules” for meal planning.
1. Plan your meals for the week
2. Cook simple food, especially on weeknights
3. Keep a post it or note pad with items you need to pick up on your next run to to store and add them in when you make your grocery list
4. Take your list to the store and don’t buy anything that’s not on your list
Let me know if you try it or what works for you.