Meal planning is a vital skill, yet not always easy to master. My boyfriend and I have been homeowners for over a month now and our grocery bills have certainly increased! We’ve been spending our evenings and weekends tackling small home renovation projects (more to come on the blog soon) so preparing a healthy dinner hasn’t always been the priority. I know how important this is though, not only for our budget but for our overall wellness too.
Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve been using the past little while that seem to be working well for us.
1) Write down a weekly menu
After coming home from work, the last thing I feel like doing (most of the time) is thinking about what to make for dinner. This tip eliminates that need to think by planning a menu in advance. Every weekend, I write the menu for the week on our menu board, including the cookbook page number if applicable. By doing this, we’re able to see what meat we need to pull out of the freezer and any other preparation we may need to do in advance. As an added bonus, if my boyfriend gets home from work before me, he knows what to start for dinner.
To create the menu board, I simply bought an 8×10 frame and printed off this free menu from blogger The Creative Index. I love it! It’s easy to use, looks great and wipes off easily when you use an erasable marker. If you don’t like this design, I came across Fab n’ Free’s amazing blog with tons of free options.
2) Use your cookbooks
When I started to meal prep, I found I would plan our meals as follows: meat, vegetable, starch, repeat. This is certainly a fine way to eat, but it wasn’t very interesting. I started to combine items in meals by looking at recipes and that’s when cooking got much more enjoyable. I tend to plan for a few meatless dinner meals every week, a leftover night, a casual (quick) dinner and a chicken and beef option. I’ve also found some great cookbooks hat provide quick recipe options for busy weeknights.
Here are a few I recommend:
- Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook
- Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook
- Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Cookbook
- The Looneyspoons Collection
3) Read the flyers or use the Flipp app
Do you receive a lot of flyers? We do and while they used to go straight into the recycling bin, or were used to protect surfaces from paint splatters, I read them now and use them in my meal planning. What meat is on sale? Is pasta on for a good price? Over the weeks, we’ve built up our pantry and freezer with items on sale. This means that many of the key ingredients we use over and over, we already own. To easily search items in flyers in our community, I use the Flipp app. You can type in an item like “eggs” and it will search all the flyers and pull up where it’s on sale. You can add coupons in the app and show items at the register for price matching.
4) Work backwards
With our basics covered, I try to limit the number of items we need to purchase each week that are not on sale. As a meal planning technique, I prefer to work backwards. I see what needs to be used up in the fridge and plan our meals around these ingredients. I also try to include meals that use some of the same items in other recipes so nothing goes to waste. This is just one technique though. There are many others – like cooking everything for the week on the weekend and freezing in batches, choosing theme nights, etc. This blog post digs deep into the various options and is worth a read.
5) Use Pinterest
I am a huge fan of Pinterest. I use the platform with my style coaching clients and personally find it’s a wonderful way to explore different topics. Meal planning is no different. While watching my favourite show, or simply relaxing on the weekend, I regularly ‘pin’ recipes I would like to try. This is helping expand my cooking repertoire and is also a great way to start a conversation with my boyfriend on foods he would like to include in our menu. This is helpful, particularly for finding beginner recipes that include exotic foods.
Have you used any of the above apps to help with meal planning? What works for you? We would love to hear! Comment below.