Meal planning is such a simple thing, it is hard for me to understand why more people don’t do it. It really does not only help you save money, but it saves time and there is less of a chance of wasted food when you plan out your meals in advance. So what are the basics of meal planning?
1. Begin by finding recipes of the meals that you think your family will love. Try introducing one new meal a week, it allows for more choices when preparing meals and allows your family to be exposed to foods that might not have otherwise tried. Collect the recipes you plan to make and keep them in once location. Having a recipe journal or notebook is a good idea. You can write out the recipes and then there are all in one place. If you are planning to freezer cook, be sure that you keep in mind what aspects of the meal can be prepared and frozen ahead of time. This will also be important for figuring out how many recipes you need to find. If you are meal planning for just a week, then seven recipes are all you need, if you are planning for two weeks, three weeks or more, you might wish to find at least ten more recipes so that you aren’t consistantly eating the same thing.
2. Take inventory. Check and see what ingredients you have for those meals. You might have a pantry full of ingredients that would make several meals. As you are taking inventory be sure and record what you have and what you need on a piece of paper. You will never remember it all alter.
3. Create a shopping list. If you are familiar with your grocery store layout you can create the list in order of where you would find the items in the grocery store. If you are not as familiar with your grocery store, you might wish to make that be one of your goals. In addition, if you do your shopping at more than one store, you might wish to create more than one list so that you can be sure you get everything.
4. Go shopping. Bring all grocery lists with you in case you find a bargain somewhere you didn’t know about. Cross off the items as you get them. This way you can clearly see what you still need to purchase. Be sure to bring along any coupons and stick to your list.
5a. For Freezer Cookers: When you arrive home, leave everything out so it is all available to you as you begin to cook. You might wish to sort the items by the meal you plan to use them to make. Having everything handy is the key to managing your time.
5b. For Meal Planners Only: If you are not interested in freezer cooking, and only want to be able to meal plan, then at this point it is time to put the groceries away. It is recommended that you place items you plan to use together, near each other. This makes finding everything the night you plan to make the meals much easier and frees up time that would have been spent running all over the kitchen looking for this and that.
Do you have any basic meal planning tips that might help? Please feel free to share.