Three months: the longest I’ve stuck with meal planning. It takes a lot of time up front but ends up saving us so much time and money throughout the week. I’m sharing the steps that have helped me stick with it, should you be new to meal planning or find that you can’t stick to a routine. Have tips and ideas to share? Leave them in the comments!
Create a folder.
This is where I keep past meal plans and even shopping lists to spark inspiration when I’m lacking ideas.
See meal planning and grocery shopping as one plan.
I create my grocery list and meal plan at the same time. Making sure you take inventory of what’s already in your fridge is key to staying on track and not overspending. I used to shop aimlessly without taking stock of what we had, then “plan” for the week. This always left us with a surplus of items that ended up going bad.
Make it an event.
Meal planning has become a priority every Sunday. It’s work, but I try to make it fun. I brew a cup of coffee, get comfortable and plan for the week. When I actually prep my food for the week, I pull my hair back, put on a great playlist, and knock it out in an hour. Having your family or spouse help in an assembly line or by splitting up the tasks makes it fun and quick!
Take note of your week.
Not taking a close look at our schedules was one of the main reasons why we failed at meal planning in the past. Now, my husband and I chat about our week to make sure we know when to cook for one, when to eat leftovers, and when to dine out. I actually write out the days and note when one of us won’t be home or coming home late. Seeing it all laid out in front of me in writing makes it easier to manage.
Get everyone involved.
Making sure my husband and I are on the same page is critical to the success of the plan. If I plan all the meals without his input or suggestions, we can easily fall off track. Plus, having others chime in gives you more ideas so you’re not stuck in a rut.
Write it on a board where everyone can see it.
We use a magnetic marker board on our fridge. Sometimes we switch things around but having it front and center like that reminds us to stay on track.
Buy in bulk.
Having things that you use frequently on hand saves you so much time and money in the long run and makes meal planning for the recipes in your regular rotation a breeze. For example, we make steak salad weekly and running out for dressing every couple of weeks not only was annoying but would also derail our plan if we didn’t feel like running out to pick some up (again, the reason why grocery planning and meal planning go hand-in-hand). Now we buy our favorite dressing in bulk.
Use what you have.
Before I started meal planning, I would open the fridge and complain about the lack of food we had and say that we desperately needed to go to the store. When in fact, we would have enough ingredients to make a couple days worth of meals. Again, ending up with a surplus of food, with most of ending up in the trash. Now we shop only when we’ve used everything we have in the fridge. Leftover salsa from taco night? It’s going in an omelet on Saturday morning. This new routine has challenged us to be very creative with how we make our ingredients and leftovers last longer. We never used to be creative like this. I used to hate leftovers. But now seeing that we can turn our leftovers into a brand new meal is exciting and rewarding.
We will be sharing our meal plans because we always need new meal ideas. Be sure to click on the Meal Plan category for ideas and to tell us what you’re cooking in the comments section!