For as long as I can remember (at least since I’ve been a “grown-up”), I’ve planned my weekly meals. Somewhere along the line, it just seemed to make sense, given a busy work schedule. In the beginning, I even selected meals based on what was on sale at the grocery store, visiting more than one to save every last cent! Nowadays, I’m not quite that comprehensive, though if I had more time, I sure would be!
It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon this past weekend, so I took advantage and sat on my deck with a Red Blend from Winc, while the kids played on the slip n’ slide and planned out meals. I typically use Pinterest as my “go to,” reviewing recipes I’ve pinned along the way. Lately I’ve been bored with reviewing those and have ventured back to my cookbooks, which prior to social media, were heavily used!
This week, I have two recipes from the Go Red for Women cookbook, as well as a few from Pinterest. I try to vary the main protein source so we don’t get bored, so chicken, sausage, beef, pork and vegetarian are the main buckets. Then, I try to include something we all have had before and like, as well as new recipes, when I can find them. As I was making my grocery list over the weekend, I thought perhaps sharing some tips would be helpful for people attempting meal planning themselves. Here goes:
- Always be clipping and saving. That goes for coupons and recipes. I am constantly reviewing savings apps, such as Ibotta, as well as digital coupons and direct mail coupons, saving those that make sense. If you still get a newspaper, the Sunday coupon section is also a gold mine. As for recipes, during down times I’m always reviewing Pinterest for new recipes and pinning them to my boards. I also subscribe to several eNewsletters that include recipes I can pin or save for later.
- Try to keep sales and seasons in mind. I try to align my meals with what’s on sale or in season. This not only keeps cost down but also tastes the best! Right now, for example, is the best time for those pork/apple combination dishes. Apples are fresh in Central New York! All summer, long we do lots of vegetables since our growing season means we have lots of fresh produce to choose from. When Wegmans has different types of seafood on sale, I leverage that, too, since often seafood is quite expensive!
- Think about schedules. I take the time to review our weekly schedule so I can align meals with what’s happening each evening. If, for example, it’s a busy lesson night for the kids, a crock pot meal works best. Also, if a meal needs prep the night before, I make sure I have time the night before to do said prep!
- Make a list. My grocery list is very Type A. I list everything in the order in which it appears in the store. If you think I’m crazy, imagine going grocery shopping with three kids in tow. It reduces the opportunity for error to at least go in order! Even then, I always forget something! On one side of my list, I list the days of the week and the meal per day. On the other side, I list the groceries needed.
- Be flexible. Even though I have my meals planned and groceries purchased, sometimes you need to know when to move things around. If you no longer have time to make a recipe or just don’t feel like eating it, move it to another day. It happens. Sometimes, we’re forced to eat something else simply because I forgot to buy an ingredient or the ingredient wasn’t as fresh as we had hoped. Even remembering to take something out of the freezer can make or break dinner for the evening!
These are just a few of my tips. Meal planning is a way of life, to me. Once you get into it, you can’t imagine not doing it. In fact, on weeks when I’ve completely thrown it out the window due to stress or unforeseen circumstances, I find we eat a lot less healthy and it’s a lot more annoying to get dinner on the table. So, for me, meal planning is a sanity-saver. Maybe it will be for you, too. Cheers!