Meal planning can truly be a form of self-care. By taking the time to plan your meals and your shopping list, you are taking care of future you by getting ahead of the stress that comes with figuring out what to buy, cook and eat every day. You will also likely save money and reduce food waste in the process!
Five Steps to Create a Successful Meal Plan:
- Look at your calendar and see what you have planned for the week, making sure to account for any takeout dinners, late work nights, or meals with friends.
- Take an inventory of your pantry. What needs to be used up or what do you already have that you can build into your recipes? By using perishable items that might be about to go bad, you will reduce both food waste and your grocery bill.
- Brainstorm meal ideas and recipes that sound good to you and your household, ideally while hungry! To speed this part up on busy weeks, keep a running list of standby recipes that you and your household love and a dream list of new recipes to try.
- Compare meal ideas with what you have in your pantry, what is on sale, what is in season, the variety in meal style, and shelf life of ingredients. With these factors in mind, finalize your list of meals for the week.
- Create your grocery list based on your meal list and any other staples. Organize your grocery list by department to save yourself time on your shopping trip.
Pro Tips for Maximum Budget Savings While Creating Your Meal Plan:
- Focus on recipes that create leftovers that can be used for tomorrow’s lunch or a quick dinner later in the week. Aim for recipes that create at least four to six servings or double a recipe to yield more leftovers.
- When using fresh herbs or veggies, make sure to incorporate them in another meal that week to use them up. Alternatively, try freezing or drying them, or purchase a smaller amount. At the co-op, you can buy produce items like radishes, celery and carrots individually to reduce waste and save money.
- When reading a recipe, don’t be afraid to make edits: Swap out ingredients for what you have on hand, choose a more affordable substitute, or swap fresh herbs for dried herbs.
- Save money by choosing some meat-free recipes or mixing meat with a grain to help stretch the meal further, such as a ground turkey and lentil taco filling.
- Select one to two recipes for the end of the week that contain less perishable ingredients to ensure ingredients aren’t going to waste before you have a chance to cook them.
- Keep a few standby recipes that will use up whatever is left in the fridge. A few meal styles that are great for this include quiches, frittatas, fried rice, stir fry, quinoa one-pot meals, and vegetable soup.