With increased interest in my Meal Planning and Diet, I am going to share with you some of my own personal tips for Planning your own meals.
Tip 1: Figure out your schedule.
Figuring out a schedule makes everything so much easier to manage. Personally, I recommend finding finding the two days that you are the most likely to have enough free time to commit to the process- including making your Meal Plan for the week, doing your grocery shopping, and the meal prep to go alongside it (if you are also doing prep).
For me, that’s Thursday and Friday; I try to always do my Meal Plans on the day before I do my regular grocery shopping, and the Meal Prep itself happens on the day of my grocery shopping- that way I can bring the groceries in and do the meal prep as I’m putting everything away. It makes it easier to manage, means that it’s less labor intensive, and ultimately keeps it from cutting into other activities or obligations.
Tip 2: Figure out your budget.
My Husband gets paid weekly, so we do our plans and grocery shopping weekly. We generally try to keep our shopping trips below $150- though we generally tend to stay at around $100 unless we’re “eating fancy” that week. Figuring out your grocery budget for each plan cycle makes it easier to tailor your meal plans to what you can actually afford, then look up recipes accordingly.
Tip 3: Don’t forget to look in your pantry!
Whenever you’re putting together your meal plan, don’t forget to look in your pantry either. You’d be surprised what you can make with the odds and ends you bought but just never used- and if you have problems figuring out what to make with your existing pantry? Sites like Super Cook, My Fridge Food, Food Wise, Recipe Matcher, and Recipe Key all allow you to type in the ingredients you have and search for recipes that way. So find recipes according to what you already have before buying something new. It helps cut down on both the money you spend and the food waste you create.
Tip 4: Buy in bulk whenever you can afford to, if you can.
I regularly buy “family packs” of Eggs and Meats- doubly so for the meat, actually. With the meat I will take them home, open the pack, then divide the meat up as equally as I can then re bag it in “day” portions (usually 4-6 pieces of meat per bag depending on what type of meat it is). If I manage to- say- get 5 bags with 2 thick cut boned pork chops out of a single Family pack, then I have 2 and ½ meals at 4 pork chops per meal (1 for me, 2 for my Husband, and 1 for his lunch the next day).
Not everyone will be able to do this, but if you can? Then it does save on money in the long term- even if it takes a bit more money to set up in the beginning; overall we end up spending less money and wasting less food.
Tip 5: Stagger your base recipes.
When I was first starting out, redundancy was the death of me. I am not a person that can get by eating the same thing day in and day out… The Foodie part of me just won’t allow it. So now each week I have a specific methodology for choosing meals; this process changes each week but it makes sure that I am hitting all of the important base food groups- and ensures that I do not get bored with what I’m eating, and am eating a variety of different things.
Generally this includes 1 Pork, 1 Beef, and 1 Chicken meal as a baseline. If we have extra money that week, I might throw in 1 Fish meal as well- but that’s rare since seafood here is incredibly expensive. The rest is filled in with a mix of Pasta meals, “Fancy” meals (if we have extra cash), and between 1 and 2 Veg*an meals. I always keep a quick meal or two on standby, too, for when my Chronic fatigue hits and I can’t make what I had planned for that day.
Tip 6: Get creative.
Meal planning is really a great way to branch out, try new foods, or figure out how to use food in your pantry that you forgot existed. Have a little fun with it. Again, some of these things aren’t possible for some people due to food availability, finances, budgeting, etc. If you can do them, great! I highly encourage it. If you can’t, though, don’t feel pressured into making it work.