Meal Planning 101

Posted by Nicole Little, Member Service Representative on Mar 23, 2015 12:50:02 PM

Do you ever go to the grocery store and feel a load of stress when you get your total in the check-out line? I know I have gotten that feeling before.  I have since gotten into Meal Planning.

Meal Planning has allowed me to make a straight forward grocery list to avoid buying extra stuff that really isn’t necessary, essentially giving me tunnel vision in the grocery store to assure I only buy products that I will use.

I would recommend you take one day out of the week and set aside about an hour to plan meals for the week, create a grocery list, and prepare any coupons you may use in your shopping trip. I usually make a point to do this on Sunday morning as soon as I wake up. When I say to plan meals, I don’t mean to just plan dinner, think of the big picture; breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and pet supplies you will need for the week.  

  • Dinner - when planning for dinner, try not to specify what day you will be having each meal, many times, unexpected things come up in life and you may not have as much time to make the meal you planned for on a specific day. Alternatively, make a list of six days and decide on six different meals.
  • Lunch - try to plan on one or two different lunches; maybe you want tuna wraps for lunches for two days, and a chicken/vegetable dish for lunch rest of the week.
  • Breakfast – similar to lunch, think of one or two things that will be sufficient for breakfast for the week, perhaps, a couple days you would like an English muffin with peanut butter and bananas, and a few other days you would like Oatmeal.
  • Snacks - think of fruits and vegetables that you like and will eat before they go to waste. Granola bars and nuts make great snacks that don’t have to be consumed the same week they’re purchased.
  • Dessert - come up with one dessert to make at the beginning of the week and only eat it after dinner each night. This could be something as simple as cookies, or some plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon added to it for flavor.
  • Toiletry items – these can last for quite some time after you purchase them, so this may not be a necessity every week at the grocery store. Take a quick look at things such as paper towel, tooth paste and shampoo before you finish your list to see if those are items you need to purchase during that trip.

So now, what do you do with all of this?! It does look like a large amount of food and a hefty grocery bill, but in reality, you won’t purchase extra sweets, freezer items, or other costly items. Compare your grocery list for items on your food plan to your cupboards and refrigerator to avoid buying anything you may already have on hand. Many ingredients that my family purchases can last for two weeks or more, not making them a necessity every week we plan to use them in our meals.

Since I have started meal planning; I have noticed money being saved when I go to the grocery store; in addition to that, I have noticed less food going to waste and I’ve created a healthier lifestyle for myself. If you purchase fresh vegetables or a type of meat for lunch that needs to be cooked, it’s a good idea to take the time to prep your lunches for the week so you will be more apt to eat them.  Make sure to also put your meal plan in a visible place such as the refrigerator door so you are reminded to use the groceries you purchased.

Another tip is to start from the back of the store and work your way to the front. I generally start with anything in the health and beauty section then work my way around to the back of the store and work my way to the front. This will allow you to make a straight shot through the store without having to walk past everything a second time, tempting you to buy unnecessary sale items stocked in the main aisles and on end caps.

To help you begin your journey to meal planning and hopefully a healthier lifestyle, check out this meal planning template. Use this as a guide and adjust to make it work for you!

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