Do you find yourself going to the grocery store multiple times a week? Are you stuck wondering what to eat? Do you end up eating takeout or frozen pizza a lot?
For just a few minutes a week, you can save yourself a good chunk of time and money. A simple meal plan and grocery list put together once a week can save you trips to the store, leaving you with more time to do things you enjoy and more money in your bank account.
After coming home from a long day, having to make one more decision about what to eat can sometimes be too much. But, if you already have a plan in place, it becomes much easier to put together a home cooked meal. Which, in our opinion, is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Meal planning does not need to be a complicated process and can be accomplished with a pen and some paper.
How to Meal Plan
The best way to meal plan is the way that works for you. Whatever system you develop, here are a few considerations for when plan out your meals
Developing a Process
While the method you develop can be all of your own, here are a few general steps for meal planning
- Make a quick review of foods available in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Note any foods that need to be used up or spark ideas for meals
- Look at your calendar and start jotting down meal ideas that fit into your schedule.
- Review any new recipes that you want to try and pick out 1 or 2 when they fit into your schedule, allowing extra time to get them prepared.
- Make a grocery list, going through the standard items you get every week and adding any extra items you need for meals planned for the week. Check against what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Grocery List Tip: Write down the items in the general order that you go around the store in, produce to dry goods to household items, to meat, frozen, and dairy items. This will limit the times you have to backtrack to pick something up while grocery shopping
Keep it Simple
For a system to remain part of your routine, it needs to have the fewest hurdles in your way. For that reason, we recommend keeping things simple and using pen and paper to plan out your meals and grocery list. (We include printable meal plan and grocery list pages in our free Family Pleaser Beef Bundle Meal Planner below.)
Keep the meal plan and grocery list somewhere convenient and accessible in your kitchen. Add things to your grocery list as you run out or think of things you need during the week. And then finish filling them out at a set time each week.
If you are likely to forget your grocery list or not have it when you need it, take a picture of it with your phone.
Keeping to a Schedule
To make sure you remember to meal plan, tie it to another task that is already part of your routine. For instance, if you look over your calendar at a certain time each week, add meal planning to this time. If you need extra help remembering, set a recurring reminder in the calendar app on your phone.
Standbys & Routines
While meal planning can help you plan out and cook new recipes, having a group of recipes that you cycle through regularly can make meal planning much easier. A group of standby recipes allows you to keep a set of standard ingredients in your pantry that gives you the ability to switch out or come up with meals when plans change.
Having a routine for certain meals each week can also ease the planning process and engage the family in meal times. One of our routines is making homemade pizza for lunch on Saturdays. Our kids enjoy helping to make the pizza and we can switch up toppings to keep things interesting. It’s also a great way to use leftovers!
So whether it is Taco Tuesdays or burgers on Friday nights, find a routine you can fit into your meal plan.
As humans, we often reject planning because of the perceived constraints placed on our lives. With our busy schedules, it is common to feel like we don’t have control over much, so the ability to just float and choose what to eat in the moment seems appealing. But, counterintuitively, this leads to defaulting to a convenient, and frequently less healthy, meal that in the end leads to less control of what we eat.
So while a meal plan can give you an outline for your meals, it is also not set in stone, and meals can be moved around to adapt to a changing schedule. Planning can make you more flexible rather than less.
Fitting Local Foods into your Meal Plan
Meal planning is a great way to fit more home cooked meals into your life. And one of the greatest benefits of home cooked meals is the ability to select high quality ingredients for your dishes.
A beef bundle from Gibralter Farms can be a source of flavorful beef that serves as inspiration for weeks of meal plans. Our Family Pleaser Beef Bundle includes ground beef, hamburger patties, roasts, and steaks from which a large variety of meals can be created.
We’ve put together a sample meal plan that details how our Family Pleaser Beef Bundle could feature in a meal plan for a family of four. Get yours below.