Thursday, October 22, 2015

5 Steps for Effective Meal Planning

I grocery shop once a week, typically Wednesdays, and have found that meal planning is absolutely essential to eating healthy, losing weight and saving money at the store. When we fall off track with meal planning and once a week shopping we tend to go out to eat, get take out or quickly buy just enough for one meal and that's when the food bill really racks up -  not to mention when I make poor food decisions. I shared my tips for saving money while grocery shopping a while back, but today I thought I would share what I do to create a healthy meal plan. 
Step 1 :: Inventory. Each week I buy just what we will need for that week but it's inevitable that there is always stuff left over. Whether I change the meal I had planned and use different ingredients or one meal ends up covering us for two nights, whatever the reason, I always have extra ingredients. SO, before I sit down to make my meal plan I take a look at what I still have and come up with meal ideas using those ingredients. For example, let's say I have a pound of ground beef in the freezer, some extra baby spinach and a can of black beans - sounds like the makings for taco salads - all I have to buy is black olives and an avocado. 

Step 2 :: Cartwheel. I do all my grocery shopping at Target because I have a red card {5% off} and can use my Cartwheel. I look through the deals and "pin" anything that I know we like, need or  ould use. I then add these things to my shopping list {so I remember there's a deal} and use these sale items to build off of my meal ideas from the inventory.

Step 3 :: Pinterest. When in doubt, use Pinterest. I have a bunch of different food related boards and refer to them often when looking for meal ideas!

Step 4 :: Spreadsheet/Calendar. I love me a good spreadsheet! I have a meal planning template saved as a Word doc that I use to fill in my plans for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for myself, Jason and Kenley.

Step 5 :: List. After I've got my plan put together I go through meal-by-meal to make sure I have every ingredient I need to buy listed out. I'm also a super spaz and organize it based on the aisle I'm in so I can just shop aisle-by-aisle and cross off the list in order {proof you go to Target too much}. I then e-mail my list to myself so I have it on my phone. This really helps me to only buy what we need and not get sucked in to the black hole of Target, though, let's be honest, I always come home with something NOT on the list but it really does help me stay in control when shopping.

And there you have it! A simple and effective way to plan your meals from week to week. Yes simple! It seems like a lot but really it probably takes me 15 minutes to set up a meal plan and get my grocery list together.

What method(s) do you use to meal plan?


P!nky said...

Great tips, friend! I don't have a spreadsheet, because I'm more a physical list person, but that is a smart idea. We use a white board on our fridge to plan our meals and it's helpful when we are planning lunches as well. Yum, now I'm hungry!

Jenn said...

I totally agree that going to Pinterest for ideas is super helpful! That's where I get 99% of my new recipe ideas to try. Meal planning is the best--a little work up front and then no worries the rest of the week!

BLovedBoston said...

Oh gosh the only thing we do is the list! But i'm going to try the calendar tip! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

Kayla MKOY said...

I love me a good meal planning session! These tips are amazing. I love the cartwheel app!!!! I don't meal plan like crazy every week, but when I do? It pays off!!!!

Mrs. V said...

Okay, so this really intrigued me! I've been thinking the past couple of days that I REALLY need to plan our meals out (something I've not been great at the past 3 years). Any chance you would post a snippet of your spreadsheets so we can see how it works?

And yes, I realize I'm a random person to you :) I've been a regular reader of your blog for quite some time now, just never comment, not being a blogger myself. ;)

Lauren Honeycutt said...

Thank you so much for this post! And I'm totally following you on Pinterest now because I'm always looking for more meal ideas! I just started keeping a meal calendar, in order to keep track of what days I can make dinner and how many Weight Watchers points those meals will be. It's been SO helpful so far!

Lauren :)

Erin LFF said...

Such good tips and reminders. I always let this time of year get the best of me but I'm determined to get back on track with our meal plans as well. I hate wasting food or money ON food!!

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