One of the best parts about not working is the fact that I can stay on top of almost everything in regards to my personal/home life. And to me, that means cleaning/organizing/planning. Best of all: meal planning!
You might be wondering, what is meal planning? Well basically, it’s like deciding in advance what you’re going to eat either on a weekly or monthly basis. From there, you make a specific grocery list that consists only of the ingredients you need for your weekly meals + some snacks and home essentials. Some people like to plan week to week, but what I found works best for me is to plan one month at a time with 30 some odd different recipes and go from there.
I’ve actually used quite a few free printables for meal planning in the last year or two, and here are my top picks:
- Monthly Meal Planner (I’m using this one right now)
- Weekly Meal Planner with Grocery List (lots of other lists for inventory too!)
- Complete Meal Planner (weekly, weekly with grocery list, bi-weekly, monthly, etc!)
- Weekly Meal Plan (more flexible)
You should definitely do some browsing and see which one suits your needs best. Then once you’ve decided, print one out and try it out!
The first step to meal planning is integrating good recipes, some of which you may not have even tried before. And ideally, you should pick at least 2 recipes that contain similar ingredients if you know you won’t be using a lot of one ingredient that is likely to go bad within the week. For example, when I buy cauliflower, I make sure I can use it in two of my weekly recipes if I only need half for one recipe, that way none of it goes to waste. Alternatively, you can freeze what you don’t use and save it for later, but make sure you freeze it as early as possible so it stays as fresh as possible for when you unthaw it.
How do you find good healthy recipes if you either have none or are tired of eating the same old meals over and over again? For me, it was buying a new cookbook and doing lots of online research on Google and Pinterest. And I have to say that the cookbook purchase was well worth it. As a side note, I’m a pescetarian, which means I’m a vegetarian who occasionally eats seafood/fish. Because of this, I decided to buy a vegan cookbook, but not just any vegan cookbook! I bought the best of the best: Oh She Glows! ❤
I’m still working on compiling a recipe book of my own, with family recipes as well as ones found online, but it’s not very complete. Mostly I just go online to pick some recipes when I’m doing a new meal plan.
Some recipes will require more ingredients than others. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, but sometime’s that’s less efficient because maybe you’re on a tight budget. It’s important to look for budget friendly recipes as well, even if that means that some recipes will only contain a few ingredients. As for myself, I try to make those ingredients some of my favourites, such as broccoli, cheese and pasta. Most pasta dishes can be pretty simple, and stir fry is always a great go-to meal for veggies lovers and omnivores alike!
Here’s a list of my favourite frugal recipes:
- Shepherd’s Pie with Veggie Ground Beef (recipe from my papa)
- Crowd Pleasing Tex Mex Casserole (http://cookingwithgarythegiraffe.blogspot.ca/2014/09/crowd-pleasing-tex-mex-casserole.html)
- Immunity-Boosting Tomato Sauce with mushrooms + Spaghetti (http://cookingwithgarythegiraffe.blogspot.ca/2014/07/day-21-immunity-boosting-tomato-sauce.html)
- Carrot & Red Pepper Soup (recipe from a friend)
- Quick & Easy Lo Mein (http://damndelicious.net/2014/10/03/easy-lo-mein/)
- Fettuccine Alfredo (recipe from Max)
- Tuna Casserole (http://www.campbellskitchen.com/recipes/tuna-noodle-casserole-24254)
- Cream of Broccoli Soup (http://cookingwithgarythegiraffe.blogspot.ca/2015/02/vegan-cream-of-brocoli-soup.html)
- Stir Fry & Oven Rice (recipe from my papa)
- Buddha Bowl, make it your way! (http://thewholedaily.com.au/recipes/brilliant-buddha-bowls/)
And there are so many more options! In this upcoming month, I’m going to try a variety of new recipes that contain red lentils because I’ve got a full bag I haven’t used yet. I’m also going to try making something called Cauliflower Buffalo ‘Wings’ because the cauliflower is on sale at No Frills this week.
The next step to meal planning after choosing lots of healthy recipes is to make a grocery list! You can go the easy way and just write everything on a piece of paper, or write it down on your phone given the fact that you mostly bring your phone with you everywhere you go. As for me, I don’t know why but I love the idea of printable grocery lists. I try to keep all of them after I’m done my grocery and file all of them so I can go back and see what main ingredients I often buy. Here’s my current template for my weekly grocery list:
Where to start though? Well I like to take all my recipes and see what ingredients I don’t have lying around the house. I’ll write all of those down and how many of each I need, double checking the fridge and storage to make sure I don’t already have what I need. Then it’s time to do some research.
My favourite step of the process is finding the best deals. I have various apps for this, as I mentioned in my blog post Home Organization, that show me coupons and/or deals for the stores of my choice. I look at all the flyers first to see what’s on sale, and I also check the PC Plus App to see what products will give me points if I purchase them. The main part of my grocery shopping is done at PC stores, either No Frills or Superstore, because of the amazing deal they have with their rewards points. It’s by far the easiest one to accumulate and saves you tons of money! I should also mention that I have the PC MasterCard which also gives me extra points for every dollar I spend. So far this year, I’ve already cashed out $80 worth of points – and it’s only been two months!!
After I check to see where the best deals are, I’ll mark it down next to the items I need to make sure I get it at the right store. At this point, I might also add products if there’s a great deal somewhere, and then stockpile that item. But I know it isn’t always feasible for everyone to tell themselves they’ll go to 3 different stores to get the best deals, so you do what’s best for you.
Once you’ve gotten your grocery list all done, you go out and you buy your food! I find that picking a grocery day/night is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend or go to the grocery store numerous times in one week, so I head out to do a haul every Thursday. It used to be Tuesday in NB, especially when I had a valid student card because students get 10% off on Tuesdays – definitely something to look into if you are a student!
And that’s about it. That’s how I do meal planning.
Try it out for yourself and feel free to let me know how it goes!