Meal Planning 101: Part 5 “Make it Work for You!”
Meal planning has become part of each of our lifestyles. Just another part of living. And we each have found ways to make it fun for us. Over the last four blog posts we gave you some of our meal planning secrets:
Throw away the rules (not the fresh veggies)! Find a plan that works for your family. Chances are, prefabricated plans will not fit your life perfectly, and that’s okay. You CAN change it!
Before you shop the grocery store, shop at home! Before you go shopping, know what you have. Being aware of inventory is a step towards saving money and reducing waste.
Each week, know your family’s schedule! Schedules are always changing. Maybe you have an odd evening appointment coming up. Instead of forgetting about it and scrambling, be aware and prepare.
Each member of your family can be helpful in the process. If your spouse/partner doesn’t enjoy cooking, have them help with shopping or choosing meals. Get your children involved and help them learn valuable life skills. Involvement gives ownership regardless of age. Don’t forget, teamwork makes the dream work!
Here’s how we put these together. We’ve also added just a few more pro-tips.
Use a tool
Michelle uses an app called Paprika. This app allows you to save recipes straight off the internet. Once the recipe is saved in the app, you can pull up recipes and place them on the calendar. And the most important part, the program automatically generates a grocery list. A little bit of shopping in the house before going to the grocery store, and she is in and out of the grocery quickly!
She also gets a CSA (community supported agriculture) box from Brown Box Organics and plans meals around what’s in the box. Not sure what to do with the fennel you just got in the box? Just do a quick internet search for recipes that contain that ingredient. (check LocalHarvest for your CSA options!)
Buy recipe books
Paulina plans her meals on the weekends. She’ll flip through recipe books and choose a bunch to make that week. She’ll bookmark the pages, then write the chosen recipes down in a notebook or even a sheet of paper for the fridge. She has at least one crock pot meal each week. They are easy, and dinner is ready and waiting when you get home.
Create your grocery list
Once you have the recipes, it is easy to create your grocery list. Remember tip #2 and take a quick look in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and list the recipe ingredients that you need to buy. Once you have your handy-dandy grocery list ready, hop on over to the store and pick up your essentials. If you don’t have enough food storage containers for your meals, now is the time to pick up some of those too.
Prep your ingredients
Paulina then takes 2-3 hours one afternoon to prep ingredients. Get your recipes ready, clear off your counter, and play some music (if you’re so inclined)! Depending on time, you may want to just prep the ingredients or pre-cook the entire recipe.
Sometimes, just washing and chopping produce and putting it in containers is a huge time-saver for weeknights. Or, you can go through and make a whole meal, and divide it up into portions and refrigerate or freeze. It’s really up to you, because the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do when you’re hungry.
Not sure whether you have enough of an ingredient, consider buying a “backup” one just in case. Paulina has had times where the tomato sauce she planned to use was a bit short of what she needed. Having to run out in the middle of meal prep can be very frustrating!
Another thing to consider is doubling the recipe(s), so you can prep and cook once, but have twice the meal at the end. The extras can be taken for lunch, or frozen to pull out the night before a busy day, so you just need to heat it up when you’re ready. If you’re doubling a recipe, don’t forget to double the amount you buy from the grocery store.
If you’re not a fan of washing and chopping produce, then consider buying them already pre-washed and pre-chopped, or even frozen. You can make your meal prep even easier if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra dollars.
Hopefully these tips will help you transition to planning healthy meals instead of eating on the run (usually with the unhealthy option!).
Written in partnership with Shannon Demers