Meal planning seriously improves my quality of life – sounds dramatic, but it’s true! I love love love cooking but I am also guilty of not going to the store for weeks on end. Then I wait until I’m hangry to actually plan dinner and then….it’s takeout again. I’m working hard to not let this happen to me because eating at home is WAY cheaper and obviously way better for you. I know a lot of people struggle with meal planning, so I’m going to put together some tips here for how to meal plan and how to do it on the cheap. This is part one – stay tuned for part two tomorrow!
1. Have a list of go-to meals at the ready. Each week I try to do 1-2 staples and 1-2 new recipes. Since it’s just my husband and I, I don’t have to cook every night and we usually have plenty for leftovers for the week. If you have more people in your family you might to adjust your meal planning schedule for a few extra meals. Here are some of my inexpensive go-to meals (add fruits and veggies as sides where applicable!)
2. Use the internet – there are TONS of awesome freezer and meal planning recipes out there. One of my favorites is Once a Month Meals – each month there are menus for all kinds of scenarios (Diet menu, Paleo, Vegetarian, etc), all with great recipes. If you’re really organized, the website is set up so you can do all your cooking for the month in ONE day. I tend to use it just to gather up my recipes. Then I make my grocery list based on the recipes and save each one in my browser in my “meals for the week” folder. Pinterest is great but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and/or forget about things. Saving the recipes on my browser makes it really easy for me to reference once I’m ready to cook!
Some other free meal planning resources I love:
- Fun, Cheap or Free’s Freezer Meals (free PDF cookbook with email signup)
- 100 Days of Real Food
- Skinny Taste
- Pinterest, duh! Follow me here 🙂
3. Do your meal planning BEFORE you go to the store and have a list. This kind of goes without saying but make sure you have a list ready before you hit the store and don’t stray from it! Don’t forget to check for pantry staples, spices, etc.
4. Keep inventory of what’s in your freezer – One time I had four bags of corn in the freezer at once, simply because I kept buying it at Aldi not realizing I already had some. Oops. Now I try to keep a notepad on the fridge that has a running list of what’s in the freezer so when I’m not sure what I need at the store, I always check the freezer. I also make sure to check the freezer for leftovers that we can eat that week.
Phew – not enough info for you yet? Click here for part two!