I have been a meal planner for several years. It saves money, keeps me organized, and reduces the impulse to eat out/order in. To be fair, I only meal plan for dinners because breakfast is typically cereal or frozen waffles and lunches are served at school. I keep a supply of fruit, cheese sticks, and healthy snacks for grazing between meals. I also keep lunch meat, bread, and chips on hand just in case there is no school or if we a need quick weekend lunch. My husband and I work from home so we eat leftovers for lunch. What is the method to my madness? Here are the steps I take when planning for a week:
- I check the calendar for any evening events that will require shortcuts in the kitchen. For a shortcut meal, I typically plan for leftovers, a crockpot meal, or a quick & easy recipe like quesadillas.
- I check the weather forecast. I love making soup but the temp needs to be under 50 degrees. If I am planning a grilled meal, my husband is not fond of standing in the rain, snow, or bitter cold temperatures. The weather inspires certain recipes for me: Spring/Summer = grilled & salads, Fall/Winter = soup and comfort foods In Colorado, we can have all 4 seasons in one week so the weather forecast is essential!
- What is in season? I love seasonal foods like blood oranges, figs, asparagus, melons, and tomatoes. Seasonal fruits and veggies are at the peak of freshness and flavor and are commonly cheaper.
- Head to Pinterest. I get bored of eating the same recipes so I am always trying new ones. I love to eat globally so it’s nice to find recipes that represent other cultures and cuisines. It is important to me to introduce my kids to this philosophy because it provides teachable moments and authentic dinner conversations.
- I like to plan my meals around various proteins. I generally include meals that include, fish, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, duck, and meatless options. I am more willing to eat the meatless options than my carnivore family so I have to make those meals irresistible. (for example, pizza)
- Now that I have some recipe ideas, I plug them into my weekly menu template. I have included a free printable template just for you! This template allows you to fill out your grocery list as you plan your meals.
- Finally, if you want to streamline your grocery budget and save yourself time, I highly suggest you utilize your local grocery store’s pick-up option. Instead of wandering the store looking for your groceries and impulse buying tons of things you don’t need, let someone else do the work for you!!
Here is the template I use for meal planning. I hope you find this as helpful as I do!