In my mind, Meal Planning and Meal Prep are two integral cornerstones to not only keeping your home routine efficient, but ensuring that you stay healthy in regards to your eating habits. But what are they, and what would a routine conceivably look like that included them?
Meal Planning is, essentially, the act of planning out what you’re going to cook in advance- whether that’s simply a day before, a week, or even a month depending on your schedule. Regardless, it serves two main purposes: The first is to reduce grocery expenditures so that you’re only buying what you need, when you need it. And the second is to help make cooking at home easier and more time efficient because you’re not wasting time figuring out what to make.
Meal Prep often goes hand in hand with planning- though not always. It is, essentially, the act of preparing portions of or all of your meals for the day (or week) in advance so that you spend less time cooking them. This can be as simple as preparing and keeping a stock of crockpot freezer meals- or as complex as cooking and storing all of your food for the week so that you can simply reheat them and be on your way. Most often, however, it falls somewhere in between.
Though our current schedule and residence keeps me unable to carry out food prep and other activities as efficiently and often as I would like, I would still like to share the things that I was doing in an effort to show just one way that planning and prep can be done to same time and energy- and money.
First things first, the most important part of my routine is having somewhere to actually keep my meal plans stored. And for me, that’s a wonderful faux chalk board my Husband bought for me at Hobby Lobby not long back.
It’s specifically for meal planning, and is set up to be used week by week. This is great, because it’s how I like doing my meal planning in the first place. But what I love most about this method, though, is that it hangs on my wall and is so incredibly visible.
I have a hard time using a lot of the common Homemaker methods you see talked about online because, to my own detriment regarding productivity, I’m very much an “out of sight out of mind” person. And things like Homemaking Binders? Well, they tend to be out of sight more often than not. But there’s absolutely no way for me to avoid this big bad chalkboard and it makes everything so much easier. As a result, I tend to actually stick to my meal planning more often as long as I can keep a consistent schedule leading up to the actual meal planning stage itself.
Each week on Saturday, I’ll create our Meal Plan- and as the board suggests, I’ll plan out our meals for the whole week.
Most people like to plan all three meals for each day, but that’s just not me. For starters, my Husband isn’t a breakfast person despite my attempts to persuade him in that direction. So we rarely have breakfast unless I get a bug to make us something, or he requests something himself. He also works in the next town over and has about a 20 minute commute, so he takes his lunches with him- leaving me alone for everything but Dinner. And since I’m the only one home throughout the day, I don’t see any real point to planning a whole day’s worth of meals week in and week out. As a result, my planning stays limited to the meal my Husband and I share together most often: Dinner.
when planning I generally try to aim for 1 Chicken, 1 Pork, 1 Beef, 2 Vegetarian, and 1 Pasta based meal each week- though if we have a little extra cash, sometimes I’ll replace one of the Vegetarian meals with a Seafood one. And when Sunday rolls around? It’s time for grocery shopping; Sundays are the days that I try to keep set aside for this since it’s the one day off a week that my Husband consistently has, and that makes it so much easier to stick to a consistent schedule.
When I get home, I’ll put up the food items that cannot be prepped and leave out those that can. At that point I’ll prep any sauces or other items that can be safely stored in the fridge until they’re ready to cook.
So how does this work in terms of each day? It’s surprisingly simple: Each day I’ll pull out the meat I need to defrost, and store it in the Microwave until it’s mostly defrosted. Then I’ll transfer it into the fridge so it doesn’t go bad while it continues to thaw the rest of the way. When it is time to cook? I’ll cook the items that couldn’t be prepped and reheat the items that could. Super simple!
Doing this saves us a lot of money; since Nothing goes to waste and I’m forced to get creative with what I have on hand for the “in between weeks”, I have a higher likelihood of using the odd ingredients in my pantry that I generally forget exist. It also means that items aren’t going bad before they can be used, which ultimately reduces our food waste considerably.
For comparison, our weekly grocery expenditures were roughly $200 without Planning. Since I began dong Meal Planning, they’ve dropped to roughly $100 USD to $150 USD… That’s $50 to $100 USD that can either be saved or applied elsewhere, and that really adds up over time.
Planning and prepping both also saves me a lot of time and spoons; I have several Illnesses (both mental and physical) that severely cut into the number of “spoons”- the amount of energy- I have any given day of the week. Some days I just don’t have the energy to spend forever wracking my brain to figure out what to cook for dinner. Knowing that I have already done all of the work (first planning the meal, then getting it ready to cook) beforehand makes it a lot easier on my low spoon days- or during severe depressive episodes; it’s a great practice that has infinitely made my life easier and my illnesses easier to manage.
The Banner Image for this post was provided by StockSnap; the Banner Image for the main site is my own work.