From talking to friends who don't meal plan, and don't know how to, the thought of meal planning is DAUNTING! This is just the basics to help you get started. There are of course tips and tricks to make it more efficient as well as save you extra money, but if you are just getting started start with these steps first. You can always add the other tricks in later when you feel more comfortable with the whole process.
- Professional meal planner Sandi Richard recommends a 5-day meal plan, because if people “overplan” she says the plan falls apart. She allots the two extra days a week for eating out, or leftovers.
- I personally can’t afford to eat out twice a week, so I plan a 6-day meal plan so that there’s the wiggle room for being invited to someone’s house for supper, having leftovers, etc. Something always tends to come up in the week, so I find 6 days of meals works well for us.
- If you have a certain day of the week that you go grocery shopping (for example Saturday) then you will want to make sure you have enough meals to get you through to that day. We are flexible with what day we go, so my grocery day never falls on the same day of the week - we just go when we run out of meals.
- What do you have in the cupboards, freezer, fridge, etc.
- Put only ingredients you DON’T have on your shopping list.
- Add to your grocery list other essentials that may not be part of your recipes – milk, bread, lunch stuff, etc.
- Buy ONLY the ingredients on your grocery list - don't get distracted! No impulse buying!
- The exception to the rule is if something is on sale for a REALLY good price and you want to stock up - such as ground beef, chicken, laundry detergent. (Meat is your most pricey item so if you get it cheap now, you can meal plan with it later.)
- Each day (or the night before) you can take out the meat you need for the meal you've chosen that day.
- Cross items off your list as you make them.
Keep in mind this is only the basics of meal planning. If you don’t plan AT ALL, this is a good place to start and ease yourself in. If you start by adding too much for yourself to do, you will get overwhelmed and stop doing it. However, do take a look at Tips for Better Meal Planning and see if you can incorporate any of the tips without getting overwhelmed. They will definitely make your life easier.
If it seems like too much, just stick with these basics for a little bit until you feel more comfortable with the whole process. You will get the hang of it and then be looking for those ways to make your job more efficient ;)
Or if you really want to avoid doing the work of meal planning all together, I've posted my own meal plans, with recipes, and grocery lists...takes all the work out of it doesn't it? Just use my meal plan as your own. You know you usually have to pay for this kind of thing...and I'm just givin' it out for free :)