This guest post was authored by Mallory Roane
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Planning ahead can help to reduce the grocery bill and prevent unnecessary and time consuming trips to the store. One of the main reasons families don’t plan their meals for an upcoming week ahead of time is because of the perception that the food will be boring, unappetizing, or repetitive.
While all of these fears are warranted, it is easy to buy high quality foods, cook delicious meals, and save money by planning everything in advance. This article will first identify why planning meals ahead is not only useful, but enjoyable when done correctly. Then I’ll discuss a few resources and tricks that allow me to succeed with this on a daily basis.
Planning Ahead is Fun
If you live with a spouse or have been with your partner for a while, you may have experienced when the relationship starts to become more routine. Sometimes this is a good thing and planning ahead for your meals can still be fun.
The process of setting aside time to connect with your family, get a consensus on what everyone desires to eat, and going to the store can be extremely rewarding. It might seem boring, but using one’s imagination to conceive of new dishes, remember what meal has been overlooked, and consider how to budget your grocery bill are all fun puzzle pieces to put together.
My partner and I have enjoyed the process of creating the list, momentarily enjoying the thought of cooking delicious food, and then visiting the store.
How to Plan for a Budget and Eat Well
My partner and I first carve some time on Sunday evening to create a notecard of meals. Because both of us eat only lunch and dinner, we have each day of the week and then a spot for meals.
We are concerned with maintaining a few priorities (as are most families):
- Health and nutrition
- Cost effectiveness
- Novel foods and dishes
The health and nutrition aspect is often conflicting with cost effectiveness. We eat only grass-fed beef and fresh-caught salmon, which are both healthier, but expensive. We make up for it by eating out less and buying no processed foods from the store (vegetables are quite affordable!).
One of the most challenging things is to make sure we have novel dishes every week, which are still relatively easy to cook. We enjoy using a book called “Easy Paleo Meals” by Kelly Brozyna because it affords us the luxury of creating something healthy, delicious, but obviously easy!
We also try to take things a step further by using a crockpot to cover at least 3 of our meals each week. Sometimes this means making turkey chili, other times it means a rump roast, but it is always easy (set it and forget it) and still delicious. Best of all, most of the crockpot recipes that we use are full of vegetables, which means they’re quite nutritious as well.
Step #1: Plan on a notecard
Whether your family consists of two or ten, the first step is the same. Carve out some time together to plan which meals you will cook and eat throughout the week. I usually have a total of 14 meals throughout the week (we also budget in some healthy snacks).
At least three of these meals come from some basic combination that we enjoy (bacon and eggs is always good!). Around three other meals come from our crockpot recipe. That covers nearly half the meals of the week! After that, we get to be creative and think of the foods we desire.
Step #2: Create your ingredient list
After developing your list of meals on the notecard, you can go through each of them and see which ingredients you need to buy from the store. This part is crucial as you will make sure to buy nothing that is unnecessary or out of place. Make sure to leave a bit of room for snacks
Step #3: Visit the store
With your list complete, the trip to the store is far more organized and less hectic. The kids might still hope to add extraneous items, but now you have a solid answer to their pleas. The great thing about planning the meals and ingredients beforehand is how much money you will save.
It is amazing how many things we buy, which either go unused or were unnecessary in the first place. Best of all, once you have a few weeks done you can start to see patterns, create permutations with old weeks, and before you know it have your week planned and shopping done in 20 – 30 minutes tops.
Step #4: Stick to the plan
Just make sure, whatever you do, stick to the plan! It can be difficult when you are in the store and faced with delicious ingredients and snacks, but do your best to stick to your plan.
Mallory Roane is a health enthusiast and blogger currently writing for Nootropedia among other places. You can find her drinking health smoothies, yoga, or traveling!