Meal planning is crucial and it doesn’t need to be difficult. When I didn’t plan our meals I would just go to the store, meander through each aisle and just throw whatever looked yummy into my cart. This wasn’t the best plan for our wallet so I had to make a change. You don’t have to have a complicated system to get started with meal planning. Start simple so that you don’t get overwhelmed and quit.
How to Start Simple Meal Planning
1. Take inventory
Always take a quick look in your fridge, cabinets, and freezer to see what meals you might have that are already prepared for that week. Jot down all the meals that you have already prepared in the freezer. Having a stockpile of basic ingredients like canned goods, rice, pasta, etc. is a great way to help you with meal planning.
2. Plan 1-2 meals using mostly items you already have made
I try to plan around 2 meals using items that I already have. For example, I usually have plenty of crushed tomatoes, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, beans, rice and frozen chicken around. With these ingredients, I could make a few different dinners: Etoufee, chicken and rice casserole or chicken enchiladas. I would only have to pick up a few items to make these meals and it wouldn’t add much to our grocery bill.
3. Buy in BULK
Another good tip when planning your meals is to buy meat in bulk or whole. We usually stock up on chicken, ground beef, ground pork and sausages. Having meat in the freezer saves me a trip to the store and buying in bulk saves our family money! For example a whole chicken can be roasted and enjoyed with potatoes and veggies, then the leftover meat can be made into soup or a casserole the next day. The same goes for roasts and meats like sausage. I try to make more than I need for that first meal so I have enough for the next day.
4. Always have back up meals
- Spaghetti – We keep it simple, a box of spaghetti and a can of tomato sauce that we add herbs to.
- Breakfast for dinner – Waffles in the freezer and eggs.
- Curried Lentils – We love this meal and it’s cheap!
- Rice and Beans – we love to cook up our beans with a little Reciato or Sofrito sauce that we usually have on hand.
5. Write it down
I usually plan my menus one week at a time. To get started grab a notebook, scrap paper or my favorite planner – you may want to grab your cookbooks or recipes box too.