After getting up before the sun comes up, getting my son to daycare, putting in a full day at work, and getting home after the sun goes down, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. Everything about it exhausts me. Thinking about what we are going to have, going to the grocery store, putting it away, preparing it, cooking it, and then having my husband not like it or my son throw it back in my face. Not a good time for me.
So in an effort to better plan my evenings, to allow me to have time to spend with my family, shop smarter and save money (and my sanity), I started meal planning.
In the past I was really unorganized about shopping. I would go to the grocery store without a list, try to come up with a menu at the store, I would spend $200 or more on food and end up with six pounds of chicken I had no idea what do to with.
Previously when I would shop without a list I could never remember if I had an ingredient at home, so I would re-purchase it. Sure enough I would come home and find that I already had three jars of spaghetti sauce in the pantry – I wasting so money.
My first step in my meal planning is to take inventory of what I already have and what I can make for the week with those items. I also clean out the fridge and dispose of anything that is expired or gone bad so I know what I need to re-stock.
Then I sit down and make my menu for the week. I use the menu board pictured above to keep me on track through the week, but just writing it down on a piece of paper and sticking it on the fridge works too.
You can pick up some other helpful tips about meal planning here as well.
After completing the menu, I make the grocery list and hit the store.
I can’t tell you how much this has relieved my stress surrounding balancing a work/home life. Having the menu for the week reminds me when to take food out of the freezer the night before and I am not trying to figure out what I can throw together quickly when I get home.
All of this has saved me a ton of money at the store because I am not over buying and I am only buying the ingredients I need, for the meals I am going to make. We are eating healthier as well because I am not swinging through drive-thru’s on my way home because I forgot to thaw something out.
Our menu has more variety and is healthier from week to week because I am able to sit down and search through recipes.
In the future I would also like to incorporate cooking in batches to help save time and money as well.
What are your tips and tricks for meal planning?
Photo Credit: Heidi Watson