A meal plan is the secret behind how I save my time, money and sanity. I can get food on the table with ease (and more importantly, in my belly). Interested, but not quite convinced? I’ll tell you all the benefits to taking the time to create your own meal plan.
I hate cooking. I’ve mentioned that before on this blog. I never know what to cook. It always feels like such a hassle and I end up eating the same things all the time. Well, I decided to give meal planning a try and it has majorly improved my attitude towards cooking ever since. There are no rules so you can’t mess it up. You just need to set aside a little time each week to do it.
What is a Meal Plan?
A meal plan is a list of meals and snacks that will be prepared for a specified period of time. The best way to go about the process will come down to personal preference. Some people plan a month’s worth of meals, then cook and freeze them. Others may prefer doing it one week at a time. You will develop your own rhythm after a bit of trial and error.
5 Reasons I Love To Meal Plan
1. Grocery Shopping Is A Breeze
After I design a meal plan, I write a list of all the groceries I need to make the recipes. Then, I take this shopping list with me to the supermarket. Shopping is efficient because I know exactly what I need. I don’t waste food anymore because I use what I buy and I avoid the irritation of realizing I need an ingredient I don’t have in the middle of cooking. (Does that happen to you too?)
2. Eat Out Less
Buying food from restaurants is expensive and fast food may be cheaper but it’s certainly not healthy. Cooking your own food is more economical and you control what goes into your food.
3. Save Money
If you are on a budget, a meal plan really helps you to save money. As I mentioned before, not only do you stop wasting food, it is cheaper to cook your own meals. I was literally throwing money away every time I disposed of rotten vegetables and food that had expired.
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Planning to cook meals using ingredients that are in season is a great way to eat well for less. Also, try overlapping ingredients to be used in separate meals. That way, instead of buying chicken, fish, lamb and pork, you can pick two and use them to create various dishes.
If you’re looking for another simple way to save money, read this post. I’m using this method for my food budget.
4. Avoid Boredom
When you meal plan, you have the time to think about the foods you like. You can try new recipes and use leftovers to create different dishes. For example, leftover meatballs from last night’s spaghetti and meatballs can become tomorrow’s meatball sandwich for lunch. This means your diet will be varied and you will always look forward to your meals instead of dreading the same old dish three nights in a row.
5. Saves Time
If you know what you are cooking for the entire week, you can prep and even cook your meals in advance. Chop all the vegetables you will need and store them in the fridge or freezer. Cook meats like chicken so you can add them to salads or other dishes later. Doing tasks like this ahead of time saves you from doing it each time you need the ingredient.
How To Meal Plan
I recommend you meal plan for just a week at a time in the beginning. When you have gotten used to doing it, you can do it for a month.
Compile a list of recipes
I keep all of my recipes in a binder. When I find new recipes online, I save them to my Pinterest Recipes boards. After I have tried and liked the recipe, I print it out and add it to my recipe binder so I know my binder only contains recipes I love. Then, I can select recipes from my binder to add to my meal plan.
How Busy Will You Be?
Take into consideration what activities you and your family will have that week. Save crock-pot and freezer meals for your busiest days when you are designing your meal plan.
A slow cooker or crock-pot is an awesome tool to have in your kitchen if you want tasty home-cooked meals but don’t have the time. Simply add your ingredients to the slow cooker and leave them 4-8 hours while you are busy or away from home.
Freeze prepped or cooked dishes, thaw the night before and cook when needed. This is a great technique to use for casseroles. Anytime you are making a casserole, double the recipe and make two! Then, freeze the second one for a time when you’ll be too busy to cook. Just remember to place it in the fridge to thaw the night before it is going to be eaten.
If you are going to try this method, use foil baking pans instead of your casserole dishes. While the casserole is in the freezer, you can still use your dishes. When you do eat the casserole, simply discard of the foil baking pan. Who doesn’t love not having to clean up?
You can also try freezer to slow cooker meals. Prep all the ingredients needed for a recipe, place in a gallon Ziploc bag and freeze. Thaw it in the fridge the night before cooking it. The next morning, dump the ingredients into your crock-pot, set the temperature and walk away. Four to eight hours later, you’ll have a delicious freshly cooked meal.
If you need slow cooker or freezer recipes, follow my Pinterest “Recipes- Freezer Cooking and Slow Cooking” Board.
Write Your Meal Plan
Write down the recipes that you will be cooking that week. Try to place recipes that will use perishable ingredients like vegetables at the beginning of the week to avoid them spoiling. Meals that can be created using leftovers should be placed at the end of the week. Make sure you include snacks in your meal plan as well.
Check the ingredients that you have at home and write a grocery list for items you need. Be sure to write down the quantities of groceries that you will be purchasing based on the recipes. I have designed a free weekly meal plan printable for you to use. It includes a space for your meal plan and a grocery list.
Have I converted you into a meal planning believer? Let me know in the comments below.