Meal Planning made easy

I started meal planning only because I started a ‘watered down’ version of the Paleo Diet.  BP (Before Paleo), I didn’t cook often and wasn’t very good at it.  My husband was the cook (and darn good) and we’d go to the grocery store several times a week (spending about $50 each time).  We purchased whatever caught our eye and were pretty much fine with that.  We were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy that lifestyle without struggle.  That said, we realized that we were just throwing away money and had talked about coming up with some sort of budget even before Paleo.  Then Paleo happened.  It was brutal for the first few weeks (more on that in later posts), but it basically forced me to start meal planning so that I wouldn’t ‘cheat’ on my diet.  I also ended up saving a ton of money.

This post is to help beginners with meal planning.  I used to meal plan and it would take FOREVER.  I would pour over recipes, write them down (with ingredients), compile them in a cookbook.  Then, I would make a shopping list.  For some reason, this would take F-O-R-E-V-E-R 😦  Since then, I’ve figured out a few ways to make the whole process more streamlined.  Here are some tips:

1)  decide how long you’re going to meal plan for.   I personally do 2 weeks at a time… a month if I really get a large chunk of time to meal plan.

2)  find recipes.  Go through your cookbooks… or easier – online.  I prefer online (pintrist specifically) because I can ‘pin’ the photo into a monthly meal planning board I’ve made.  This makes it so that I don’t have to write down EVERYTHING.  **It saves a LOT of time**

3)  compile your ingredient list.  COMPARE IT WITH WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE.

NOTE: if you’re main goal is to save money, you’ll have to change up the steps.  FIRST, check what you have… THEN, check for recipes that match.  Allrecipes.com is really good for this.  They have a place where you can type ingredients you want to use and then populates recipes that contain those things.  (I used this when I had ‘extra’ meats left over @ the end of the month – they were the first meals of the following month).

OPTIONAL:  check out your weekly flyers.  Go to the place that has the most expensive stuff on your list the cheapest (or go to Super Wal-Mart).  Super Wal Mart is AWESOME because they price match everything… which means you can just look @ the other flyers, write down what you would have brought there on special & have Wal-Mart price match.  (Here is the blog I found most helpful about that).  It saves you time.  And money.  And if you’re organized about it, even more time.  Otherwise,

4) grocery shop.

5)  PREpare as much as you can ahead of time. while it’s fresh. freeze it.  By that, do as much of the prep work as you can, as soon as you can.  This way you can freeze it before it starts to go bad.  This step takes a while, but saves TONS down the road.   I found this post inspired me to start freezer meal preparing, but there are many more.  The good thing about this time consuming step is that you can enlist the help of your children – handing your stuff, bagging stuff up, etc.

– use a central place to store your best loved recipes (more on this in another post).

So that’s pretty much it… it will take a while to get used to but ends up saving time, money, and pays itself off every night when you’re not stressed about dinner.

Feel free to share your hints too.

Thanks for reading.