Step-by-Step Guide to Easy Meal Planning

Meal Planning…… not always the most exciting way to spend my time, but necessary. There are so many different ways to meal plan, and you have to find the way that works best for you and your family. I know some people who have a calendar and plan what they are cooking each night for a week, two weeks, a month. For us, planning out each meal for specific days didn’t work. We tried it.

In our house, we plan out the meals we are going to make, just not when. This way we aren’t stuck with a schedule and can choose what sounds better that day. Often there are meals that get starred as the ones to make sooner because they have more ingredients that will go bad quicker. I will dive more into the way I meal plan, but first, want to give a few of the reasons why you should start. Proper meal planning saves you money, food, and time!

Meal Planning Saves Money

When you don’t plan out your meals, it can often lead to you not having enough ingredients for a meal, which means running to the grocery store to grab something. Or worse, eating out or ordering in. When you run to the grocery store, most of the time you won’t get only what you need for that meal. You remember you are getting low on milk. Oh and some bread would be good to have on hand. And they got you with the snacks in the checkout aisle. Next thing you know you’ve spent $50 on a trip to get a few things for one night’s meal.

Meal Planning Saves Food

If you plan out your meals, you can make sure to use up ingredients rather than tossing the extras out. For example, one meal may require half of an onion, so you can plan another meal to use the other half. If you don’t have a plan, that half of an onion will probably be forgotten and go bad before it is used. Now you’ve wasted both money on the onion half that wasn’t eaten, and you’ve wasted perfectly good food.

Meal Planning Saves Time

Let’s go back to that grocery store trip you had to make because you didn’t plan out your meals. How long did that take? At best, maybe 30 minutes. We are lucky that there is a neighborhood marketplace Walmart about 5 minutes from the house. But you have to think about the time it takes you to drive there, find what you need, checkout, load the vehicle, drive home, and put the food away. Wait, didn’t you just go grocery shopping a couple of days ago?

My Strategy

When I am working on my grocery list and meal planning, I make sure to set aside about 15-20 minutes. I’ve been doing this so long, now, that I have my process down pretty well.

  1. I pull out my grocery list, my cookbooks, my recipes on my phone, and any I found online to try on the computer
  2. Make a list of a few meals I want to make
  3. Write down all the ingredients for the meals
  4. See what meals will have leftover ingredients (like that half onion)
  5. Find recipes that will use those ingredients
  6. Write the ingredients I need for those also

Once I have my list of meals and my grocery list written out, I head into the kitchen to see what I have. To make sure I don’t miss anything we may need, I write it all down, then cross off what I have. Sometimes I still have some garlic from last week or half a block of cheddar cheese in the refrigerator. If those are things I need, I go ahead and cross them off the list. This helps with saving money since I don’t buy what I don’t need. It saves food because I am not throwing out extras, and saves time from having to find it at the store.

What You Need

Using my method, you don’t need much to meal plan. I have an led writing board that I put magnets on the back of to hang on my refrigerator. This is where I write down the meal options that we have for the upcoming weeks. It’s not necessary, and a piece of paper would be perfectly fine. I was given this for Christmas years ago, so it’s gotten a lot of use, and I am not wasting more paper every week.

The only other thing I need, besides my favorite recipes, is a piece of paper for my grocery list. You can use lined paper, or you can download my entire meal planning kit here:

You are also invited to check out my new No Waste Meal Plan! This is a 4-week meal plan with grocery lists and recipes intended to save you money, time, and food. When you follow my dinner plan, you will use up all of the groceries you purchase by the end of the plan. This saves you money because you aren’t buying food that you will throw away. It saves time because I have already figured out the meals, ingredients, and recipes for you. And it saves food because you aren’t wasting anything!

No Waste Meal Plan: Join Me

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