Click on image to view in full.
I came across this great idea for a meal planner on a blog and loved it. (I can't remember or find which blog so I'm sorry I can't reference it or give credit). I took the idea and ran. On Sunday I planned my meals for the entire week. I'm the kind of person who loves making lists so this was a fun project for me. I figured out specific dinners, and some breakfast and lunch options. I usually prefer leftovers for lunch so I just needed a few options in case we pigged out the night before and didn't leave any.
It was great to have a complete list at the grocery store because when I don't know exactly what I'm cooking, I tend to over-buy. I spend more $ up front and then end up wasting food because things go bad before we can get to it. Knowing exactly what I needed for the week saved me money on both ends. I also saved money because I didn't buy so much meat. I did one chicken dinner, one fish dinner, and three meatless dinners. That definitely lightened up my grocery bill. And finally, because my list was so complete, I don't have to run to the store mid-week to get items I forgot. This was the cheapest grocery store excursion I've had in months. My husband was also impressed and it's nice to show that I'm doing what I can to cut costs while the economy is in a tail-spin.
Here are some basic meal planning tips:
- Plan meat dinners earlier in the week so you don't have to freeze your meat.
- Plan one or two meatless days. Sounds tough but it's not. See Michael Pollan post for inspiration.
- Always make more than you need for dinner. Leftovers are the easiest lunch for you and your kids and dinner is generally more nutritious than lunch options (chicken and veggies rather than grilled cheese for example).
- Make a big batch of soup once a week. It is SO good for you and provides meals for a few days.
- After you write your grocery list, take a quick inventory of your pantry so you're not buying things you don't need (chicken stock, tomato paste, beans, etc).
- Making a roast chicken on Sunday can provide a few meals (soup, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, etc) throughout the week.
- Try to overlap food items ... if you're making tacos one night, use the leftover tortillas, sour cream, salsa and cheese for chicken enchiladas or breakfast burritos on another day.
- Try to imagine your food planner as a color chart. You want to eat as many colors in a day as possible so make sure you're meal planner has a colorful selection of foods (green, red, blue, purple, yellow, orange).
- You could also add a row for snacks or desserts!
- I've found that the more meals I have planned, the less likely I am to eat out (which saves money and is much healthier for you).
So plan ahead, save money and eat healthier! And please share your weekly meal-planning tips! I would love to hear how other people manage this piece of the puzzle. Thanks and happy planning!