Here we are at the start of a new year, with the chance to introduce changes and create new habits. Both of which are never easy. I find it best to start with one area, where do I really want to improve? It appears over the past couple years meal planning has been a big theme and I am happy to say I think I have mastered it! Meal Planning is more than making a list, it actually saves time as well as money. Both of which are extremely valuable.
How to get started? I think the first step is to think of how much added stress and time cooking or food prep can add to your week. I wrote a blog a couple years ago comparing Penny Planner vs Lizzy Last Minute. In the comparison Penny Planner saves money, but she also saves time and energy by making a plan for the week ahead. Planning is a simple step to get back valuable time, while also staying on budget.
Ok, then what? Make a plan! Seems simple enough. I think where people fail is believing they can look up a few recipes and be set for the week! Oh no, it doesn’t work like that. You need to write down the meals you want to have, then check to see what ingredients you require. This way the whole week is laid out for you, no need to look up recipes each day or go grocery shopping, you’ve already done that work. Plus you won’t find yourself halfway through cooking only to realize you are missing two ingredients (we’ve all been there). I wrote a blog post with a sample menu I used to give you an idea of how specific I am with my plan.
To help you get started here is a menu planner I created! Print it off, make notes, get planning!
Ok so I have made a plan, now what? Here is where I may lose a few people. This year I took it next level and started batch cooking which means I cook everything on Sunday for the entire week. What? Yes, it’s true (search Batch Cooking on the blog to read the three part series). It takes less time than you may think, roughly 2 to 3 hours. What I gain back is huge. I have every night free during the week, no need to worry about finding a recipe or picking up groceries or cooking or cleaning up a huge mess. I simply throw a dish in the oven or heat it up on the stove. I use the same menu planner to list out my meals and to make a plan.
So batch cooking might not be for everyone, I totally understand. In that case I would suggest doing a large grocery shop so you have everything you need for the week. Then if there are snacks or meals you can prep on Sunday, that will be a huge help. For example, making quinoa on Sunday for salads during the week or baking muffins for snacks or making overnight oats for breakfast. These simple steps will also help during the week to save time.
Lastly, stick to your plan! I think it is easy to pick up sushi on the way home or go out for appy’s after work, if that’s part of your plan, great! If you bought food that will go bad because you are too lazy to cook it, not so good. There is a happy medium, if you do go out then freeze the food you don’t use or cook it and freeze the meal. I’ve done it before where I go out and then say, “Oh, I will cook that meal later” and it never happens, then I end up throwing away food, which I hate. Sticking to your plan will save money, time and food! All very important.
You can do this! I believe in you. I also know after meal planning for a week or two, you will already see some benefits and be telling everyone else to try it!
To start if you live near a Save On Foods, they delivery groceries for around $6. It is really simple and saves even more time. They have a $10 off coupon if you spend over $50, enter promo code: SAVE$$NW