I’ve been steadily meal planning for about a year now with great success in saving money, eating more healthfully, and time saving. I tried various methods initially using free websites and methods shared by other bloggers but what ultimately ended up working best for me was my own method. I think that with meal planning, it’s going to work a bit differently for everyone but the best results happen when you stick to a schedule every week.
I highly recommend for the first few months, aiming for 1-2 planned meals/week. After that becomes routine, increase to 3-4. Right now I plan 4-5 meals/week and eat from our deep freezer, dine out, or prep something on the fly.
Here’s how I do it.
Set aside 30-45 minutes to collect recipes at the same time every week.
In my case, I generally do this on Thursday during my lunch break. During the week I try to make note of anything new or interesting I come across online or in a cookbook, or something I’ve been craving. Once you’ve collected all your recipes, open a separate tab in your browser and/or mark each page in your cookbook(s).
Plan Your Meals
The next thing I do is open my Google calendar. I create an event for each meal and save a link or a cookbook/pg# in the Description section. I turn off notifications. I usually save the link under dinner and then create another event the next day with the same meal for lunch. I try not to plan the same type of cuisine twice in one day. Ex: Chili for lunch and tacos for dinner. Too many similar flavors.
I continue doing this until I have every meal entered for the following week. This is essentially the Meal Plan.
Create a Shopping List
I also use Google for this part. I have a saved Google document simply called Grocery Shopping that I re-use every week. It’s broken down by store category. Roughly appropriate for both of the grocery stores I tend to use. With all of the recipe tabs open and/or cookbook pages marked, I enter all the ingredients I need. In addition to other things that we might need as well. (I keep a list on the fridge for that) I used the table function in Google docs. It looks like this:
It is my preference to have a printed copy of the list because while I can also access it on my phone, it’s annoying to hold a phone and also shop. While also keeping my 3 year old from grabbing at it! 🙂