Meal Planning in Five Easy Steps

This is the second blog in a series about meal planning. If you haven’t read the first post, you should start here to learn about the many benefits of meal planning. Are you ready to start meal planning, but not sure where to begin? This post will help you get started with five easy steps.

First, choose two or three meals that you and your family love to eat.

Yes, the same meal!! Whether that’s pot roast, chicken and rice, or mashed potatoes and steaks… This ensures that your family will be satisfied and that you have a “go-to” recipe that you know will be easy to make and familiar. Try keeping these three “go-to” meals simple. It’s always great to try new things, but using meal recipes that you are familiar with will save you many headaches.

Second, create a list of meals for the entire week.

If you are a working parent, like myself, the best time make the list might be on a lazy Sunday morning after that first cup of coffee. Build on your “go-to” recipes by including one or two new recipes that you would like to try, or old favorites that you don’t get around to making very often. I like to write the recipes in a notebook and then transfer the most “popular” ones to index cards; in the next blog we will go more in detail about the index card method.

Third, make an ingredients list.

Now that you have all your meals, you need to make sure you have all the ingredients for them. Write down the ingredients needed for each recipe. I suggest listing the ingredients by category; this will make your trip to the grocery store much easier. For example, milk, cheese and yogurt would go under Dairy; green peppers, tomatoes and lettuce would be under Produce, etc…

You can use the tally system to figure out how many of each ingredient you will need to purchase for entire week menu. For example, if you need five potatoes for Tuesday’s baked potatoes and chicken dinner, you can write the word potato and tally out five, that way when you get to Thursday’s dinner of beef stew which calls for three potatoes, you can add the three tallies instead of writing potatoes again. This step might take a few minutes, but it will be so worth it and save you tons of time during the week.

Tip: Another option is to print out a template. Here is a link of different templates, choose the one that works best for you. 

If you are tech savvy, you may opt to use a grocery list app instead.

Fourth step, check your pantry and fridge.

You don’t want to spend money on things you already have stored away in your pantry or hidden in that lower fridge drawer. After making your ingredients list with tallies, check to make sure you don’t already have some of the items. Use the checklist to check off any ingredients you may already have. For example, if a recipe calls for five potatoes, but you already have three, then check off three tallies so that you know you only need to purchase two. This reduces costs and food waste.

Tip: Don’t scratch out the ingredients, just place a checkmark, as you can use this list for future references.

Fifth step, Go shopping and prep!

Now that you have all your ingredients it is time to begin the prepping for your meals. Use plastic storage bags or food containers to separate food needed for each meal. Pre-cutting vegetables, fruits and meats will help you save time when preparing the meal later in the week. Also consider seasoning meats before freezing, this will enhance the flavor of the meat.

Want to learn more about meal planning? Check back soon, in the next blog we will give you some tips on how to stay organized and consistent.