If you read my first post about meal planning you’ll know how I feel about the whole thing, and how a lot of ways aren’t as easy as advertised. Basically I read what other people did, tried it, hated it, and then changed it to work for me. And now I don’t hate it anymore!
I think I talked way too much in the last post so I’m going bullet point now. You’re welcome ;)
What I wanted:
– spend less on groceries
– spend less time shopping
– eliminate the daily decision making on what’s for dinner
– have some sort of variety in meals so it’s not the same menu every week
What everyone else seems to do that didn’t work for me (and why):
– inventory all food/consumables in the house
This might make more sense for families with kids where it’s harder to keep track of what you have, but with just 2 of us I know when we’re running out of things and check for sales before it completely runs out. If no sale comes up before I need to buy it then I can choose to wait or get it at full price. It was way more time consuming for me to make that list and keep it updated.
– plan an entire month of meals at once
Again, maybe this is more useful for bigger households. I found that when I planned an entire month in a day the goal was to save time throughout the month, but I didn’t take in to account our changing schedules, unexpected leftovers, etc. It worked for the first couple weeks, but the last half of the month was kind of “choose a meal and hope we have everything to make it” kind of thing. Not very practical
– buy all your groceries in one day
I was actually looking forward to this one so that I wouldn’t have to make weekly trips to the store, but I quickly realized that there are things that need to be bought on a weekly basis (produce). Also, a lot of people say you have to coupon, but up here in Canada coupons aren’t really a thing so you have to wait for good sales to come along. But since everything won’t be on sale on the same day that doesn’t really work for this either. Boo.
– freezer meals
I debated trying this out, but came to the conclusion that this is probably better for people that are crazy busy/don’t have time/have kids/don’t mind eating Ziplock bag meals all the time. None of those categories applied to us. We both work at home a lot, don’t have kids, and as much as I don’t like cooking I’m not a huge fan of the idea of every dinner being frozen. So moving on…
I feel like I need a big fancy intro for this, but since I don’t have one here it is:
How to make meal planning a practical and not horrible experience!
– Figure out what works for you and ignore everyone else.
I wanted to do it the “right” way because I assumed that everyone else out there blogging about meal planning had gone through all the hard stuff already. Which they had, but every family is different, everyone’s lifestyles and schedules are different, and there’s no way that one person’s way can work for everyone! So if that means ignoring everything I have to say too then so be it!
– Plan weekly, not monthly
I sit down once a week, grab a sheet of paper and write down the days of the week. I look at our schedules to see which days and meals we’ll be home for, check the fridge/cupboard/freezer and fill in each day with what we have on hold. I make a grocery list at the same time with things we will need for breakfasts, lunches, and anything extra we might need for dinners.
– Keep track of prices so you’ll stay on budget
As I make my grocery list I write beside each item what it costs. When my list is done I add it up and if it’s over my weekly budget then I take things off that aren’t needed immediately.
– Always shop with your list
If you forgot your grocery list at home don’t go to the store! The only way to get what you need and stay on budget is to have that handy list with you. Sometimes I’ll make the list in my phone so I always have it on me.
– Be flexible
Even though I assign a meal to each day it’s nice to have everything on hand and be able to shuffle it around if we feel like something different.
– Don’t forget about leftovers
I’m not a huge fan of leftovers so we usually make just enough for one meal. But if you do have leftovers don’t forget to factor them in to your weeks menu. Or make it into lunches or freeze for another week.
One tip from other people that I did use was making each night a kind of theme night. I don’t do this every week, but if I’m stuck for ideas I’ll make Monday Mexican, Tuesday Italian, etc
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, Congratulations! Doing all these things has helped me stay on budget, use my time better, and avoid that dreaded “what’s for dinner” question, and I’m hoping it helps someone else out there who has decided to brave this daunting adventure too. I believe in you! And now I’m off to enjoy some delicious homemade pizza because, you know, it’s on the menu :)