Meal Planning Made Practical // part 1

April 7, 2015

Meal Planning made Practical // www.thelovelythings.com

Once upon a time I decided this would be the year of successful meal planning as a way of saving time and money when it came to all things food. I should mention that I don’t like to cook – at all, and on top of that I really hate trying to decide what we should eat everyday. Before my married days I was 100% happy eating rice and chicken-veggie stir fries everyday of my life. Super quick to make, minimal dishes to wash, and budget friendly (which at the time was around $50 a month – I was also way skinnier then. Ha!). But gone are those days because apparently some people like variety. Who knew?

Anyway my thought was that if I meal plan then I only need to get groceries once a month (saving time and money), and I would decide the whole months meals in one sitting so I didn’t have to stare blankly into the cupboards every day trying to magically come up with something delicious.

Like a good little planner I read a bunch of different blogs to find out what other people said the best way to start this scary adventure was. The most popular title had to be “Meal Planning Made Easy”, and I have to say that that’s a little misleading. Not matter how “easy” it may be it is still crazy time consuming and kind of exhausting at the start – something I definitely did not want to deal with every single month, but I’ll get to that later.

After doing my research these were the top suggestions from the pros:
– find a super cute printable to write your menus on. Bonus points if it has a space for a shopping list.
– make an inventory of all the food you have in your house right now. ALL OF IT.
– make a grocery list (or find another printable template) of everything you will ever buy – so basically the entire grocery store now in one giant, overwhelming list.
– give each day of the week a theme for example Mexican Mondays, Italian Tuesdays, etc. Okay, this one I can get behind. Although I don’t know why pizza everyday isn’t a common suggestion… just me then?

This all seemed a little much, but I was determined to do this the “right” way so I did what they said. Although I did ditch the printables and just made my own boring spreadsheet. I went through our cupboards and typed out all the soups and all the spices. All the pastas, cereals, and rices. Until I turned into Dr.Suess apparently haha. This took a while but I just kept telling myself it would be worth all the time in the end.

Next I filled up my calendar page with 3 meals a day (we both work at home so we need more then just suppers figure out) using things we already had on hand, and writing on the grocery list things we needed to buy in the once-a-month shopping trip I would be doing. This seemed pretty straight forward until I realized two things. First, fresh produce doesn’t last all month so you need to buy it weekly and second, everything isn’t on sale at the start of the month. But okay, I’ll just go back and buy those few things when I need them/when they’re on sale.

Once my menu was complete and I was feeling pretty proud of myself I went to the grocery store and spent almost our entire months grocery budget. But that was okay because I wouldn’t be going back for anymore big purchase the rest of the month – that was the point anyway.

The first 2 weeks were pretty successful. We ate well, had variety, and could easily switch meal days if we felt like having something else. But then the middle of the month arrived and I didn’t have some ingredients I was supposed to (those pesky not-on-sale things and produce I was supposed to go back for). So I started stealing meals from wherever I could on the menu calendar, and making more trips back to the store then I wanted to. By the last week of the month I had a lot of food that we never made, over spent our budget, and went back to the store more times then I wanted to. Whomp whomp.

But I wasn’t going to let that get me down! When the next month rolled around I ignored all the info and suggestions I had so dutifully read before, thought about what wasn’t practical for us, and made a new game plan. But since I’ve made a novel out of this post already, I’m going to save my suggestions and tips for the next post. Ya’know, to keep you wanting more ;)

Meal Planning Tips // www.thelovelythings.com

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