For someone wanting to get organized in the meal department, the first thing I recommend starting with is Meal Planning. I know people wonder if there are benefits to meal planning and should they bother? The answer is yes, and yes!
Meal Planning Saves Time and Money
And who doesn’t like saving time and money!? When I meal plan, I know what to expect for the week and I can shop accordingly. No more extra trips to the grocery store and less food waste.
What is the Meal Planning Process?
This is how I break down the meal process from start to finish…
- The plan…gathering recipes, creating the meal plan, making the shopping list, etc.
- Grocery shop
- The food prep…pre-cooking, washing and chopping of vegetables
- The clean-up…need I say more?
These are the 4 steps to my meal planning process:
#1 - Create A Plan
Creating a plan requires a few different steps, so I’ve broken it down accordingly.
A - The Master List
This is a list of family favourites, meals that you tend to eat over and over and seasonal meals. Create a “master” list for each meal type (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Crockpot, Dessert, etc.)
Don't forget to get inspired!
When it comes to meal planning, there are times I get tired of my own recipes and it makes the process that much harder. That's when I know I need to look for inspiration, whether it be looking on Pinterest, (be careful, this can be a rabbit trail that takes up your whole day), looking though magazines or recipe books, or asking friends and family for ideas.
Write these recipes down, so you know where to find the recipes when you create your meal plan.
B - Make A Monthly Plan
Grab a blank calendar and start filling in 4 weeks of meals.
This can be a daunting task, but if you use your family favourites list and recipes to try, you should have lots to work with. Don’t worry about having to come up with 28 different meals. Repetition is allowed. When I first started filling in my monthly meal plan, I thought I had to have a different and exciting meal every time. I was burnt out just from planning the meals, let alone actually making them!
- 10-15 Dinner ideas
- 7-10 Lunch ideas
- 4-7 breakfast ideas
Here are some tips for planning your monthly meal calendar:
~When you plan your 4 weeks, keep your days/weeks in mind. What are your busiest days? Plan for a slow cooker meal from the freezer that day.
~Do you already have a routine in place? Meatless Mondays, pizza Fridays, etc. Don’t change what’s already working for you.
~Plan for leftovers and reinvent them. For example, I will make a roast on Friday and we’ll have some leftover roast in a stir-fry with rice on Tuesday. I’ll also use some of the leftover roast and leftover rice to make enchiladas and throw them in the freezer for Friday.
C - Create A Weekly Meal Plan
This part is easy since you've already created the monthly plan. Once you have a monthly plan created, pick a week and transfer it to a weekly meal planning page.
D - Create Shopping Lists
This is not a necessity to meal planning, but it can save you some time. A friend of mine introduced me to this concept and I think it’s brilliant. When you have your 4 (or more) weeks planned, label them weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4. Create 4 shopping lists, one for each of the 4 weeks. When it comes time to shop, grab the shopping list for the week you plan. You can either take that list and add household items that are needed, or use that list as reference and write down the ingredients you don’t have for that meal plan on your shopping list.
Still following? Onto steps 2-4
#2 - Grocery Shop
#3 - The Prep …. washing, chopping, pre-cooking, etc.
#4 - Clean Up
Oh and #5...feed your family ;)
Step 3 and 4 might not be super fun for you...BUT the benefit of #5 plus all the other benefits of meal planning make it so worth it. Trust me.
There is no magic formula for meal planning and it won’t look the same for everyone. Every family has different likes, needs, schedules, etc. Even after all these years, my meal planning is not perfect. It looks different every week. There are times we’re eating something different than planned, or it’s already 5pm and I haven’t a clue what’s for dinner. The days/weeks I stick to the plan and my family is well fed, I pat myself on the back because I conquered meals like a boss!