Whether you’re looking to save money or prepare meals quickly, you often see suggestions for planning your meals. If you’re unfamiliar with meal planning then this can be frustrating and confusing advice. Here are some tips on how to meal plan.
#1 Use your supermarket ads – Take a look at the sale items for the week at your local supermarket. What’s on sale? Anything you’d likely buy and eat? Anything that can make a meal? For example, if ground beef is on sale for half price, then you may want to make a note of that. If squash is on sale then make a note of that.
#2 Use your resources – If you have cookbooks on hand, then great. The next thing you can do to plan your meals for the week is open up your cookbooks and look for recipes with ground beef, squash and any other items you found on sale in the supplements. If you don’t have cookbooks then simply visit an online cooking site. And really, in today’s world, Google and Pinterest are your friends for meal planning. I often put two or three ingredients in the Google search bar along with the word “recipe” and get several ideas that I can adapt to what I have on hand.
You can buy old used Cooking Light cookbooks. Cooking Light organizes recipes by month. Recipes often coincided with what’s on sale at your grocery store. The sale items are usually the produce items that are in season. If squash is on sale it’s because it is in season. Cooking Light will most likely have a few squash recipes. It just makes your recipe search easier.
#3 Plan your meals – You now have both sale items and recipes at your fingertips, which means you’re ready to plan. Sit down and look at the five to seven nights you have to work with. Consider meals that can be made ahead of time and frozen.
Consider meals that generate leftovers so you don’t have to cook every night. Also look to make sure you’re providing a well-rounded meal. For example, hamburgers alone aren’t a healthy meal. IF you add cole slaw and sweet potato fries then you’re providing more nutrients. And if cabbage and sweet potatoes are on sale then you’re really doing well!
#4 Make a list – Make a list of the ingredients you need for the entire week’s worth of food. Don’t forget to check your staples like bread, milk, and eggs.
#5 Go shopping – Make sure you shop from your list. If you deviate from the list, make sure you have a logical reason for the addition. A list helps you stay organized. It also helps you stay on budget.
#6 Invest in a Done for You Meal Planning Solution – If all else fails, and you just don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself, you can try a done for you solution such as eMeals. I’ve used them in the past. They have several plans to choose from including kid-friendly, budget-friendly, and special diets such as low carb, heart healthy, vegetarian, and gluten-free. They also have add-ons for breakfast and lunch menus. You can pay by the month or for the whole year. I purchased a year, saved the meal plans, and now I can pull from them any time I’m feeling uninspired.
Meal planning isn’t difficult. However, it does require a system. You need to be both organized and a bit patient. Sometimes the sale items just don’t mesh with the recipes you have in mind. Or your week is really busy. Pasta, burgers and even breakfast for dinner are options for those busy nights. Get creative and have fun. Meal planning really can alleviate much of the stress of busy families and meal time.