This has been quite a busy last 2 or so weeks! With Halloween and the cooler Texas weather making it more enjoyable to be outdoors, I’ve barely had time to come up with time to write! I’m working on this, I promise.
So one thing I’ve always been very good at is meal planning, list making, grocery shopping, and meal prepping. It’s something I enjoy doing and it’s something I’ve found has many benefits. I’m going to add to this post throughout the coming weeks, but I wanted to at least give y’all a basis for what it is that I do and how I do it. And of course, how you can do it.
Meal planning seems to be a daunting concept for many people. When I tell people my weekly routine, they’re just amazed that I put in the energy to plan ahead and stick to my plan. In reality, I expend less energy meal planning and meal prepping than they do scavenging for food in their house.
Benefits of Meal Planning:
-Eating out less
-Less cooking time every night
-No worrying throughout the week what you’re going to eat
-Saves money (who doesn’t like saving money?!?!?!)
-Saves having to clean a whole meal’s worth of dishes every night
-Encouraged eating at home and eating with family
So what does Meal Planning mean for me?
I tend to have a slightly OCD personality and I like to be in control of things. Fortunately, I translate this into being in control of my kitchen at home. Unless I’ve cooked with you before and you’re a good chef or sous chef, I tend not to work well with others and I get cranky when people don’t do things my way! (I’m working on this!) I have found when I prep all of our food and I’ve planned out our menus, if there’s a night when I cannot cook dinner for whatever reason, it’s easy for Jacob to pick up the menu, find the recipe and make the dinner.
What’s the secret to meal planning?
Step One: Research
I love cooking. I love looking at recipes. My personal Pinterest board is filled with hundreds of recipes I’ll probably never make but I love looking at and reading. When I’m meal planning for the week, I spend maybe 15-30 minutes searching through either my cookbooks or Pinterest to find recipe ideas. I have a solid base of “every day” things that I cook-like my go to meals and I try to add in one or two new recipes every week to try out. Thankfully, Jacob is always a willing guinea pig.
Research your recipes, but don’t go overboard from excitement. I try to find recipes each week that’ll use more or less the same ingredients so I’m not having to buy a ton of different things at the store. I’m one of those people that likes to print my recipes as well. If this works for you, I recommend printing them out.
This past week, I discovered this random, totally awesome template, on a google search. So once you have maybe 3-5 recipes for the week, figure out what you want to do for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I’d also recommend adding in a daily snack or two in case you get hungry and if you don’t need it, then don’t force yourself to eat! Once you’ve figured out what you want to eat, make a list of the ingredients you don’t already have from each recipe. I’m fortunate in that I have a really good mental picture of everything I have in my kitchen and pantry, so this step is fairly easy for me. If you don’t know or you’re unsure, spend 5-10 minutes doing this at home where you can physically check everything.
Here’s an example of my menu for this week. When I took this picture, I hadn’t listed my shopping list yet, but this can at least give you an idea of what I do. From beginning of research to full grocery list takes me around 30 minutes. It’s really not as bad as you’d think!
Step Two: Grocery Shopping
My best advice is to stick to your list. Don’t impulse buy. I mean, if you get to the store and realize you’re almost out of toilet paper, by all means buy some toilet paper! But if you’re walking through an aisle and see something delicious that you’d love to eat, don’t buy it!!! Stick to your menu, stick to your list. You can always plan treats and snacks in your list. This was a big thing I’ve been trying to teach Jacob since we’ve been together. His idea of meal planning is going to the store and saying “what meat do I want to eat this week? What vegetable?” and then going from there. I’ve finally convinced him this is not ideal and you won’t get much variety and you’ll end up making separate trips to the store throughout the week to pick up items here and there that you need. Sticking to your list will save you money ultimately. And you don’t have to buy high dollar items. Does a recipe call for pine nuts? Use walnuts instead. Pine nuts are delicious, but expensive! Explore the bulk section of your grocery store. Don’t go to the most expensive stores. We have a store here with an amazing bulk section and it’s super cheap! A gallon of milk is $0.98 and a dozen eggs are $0.69. Find these gems of grocery stores and use them to your advantage.
Step Three: Meal Prepping
This seems to be people’s least favorite activity. It’s my favorite, weirdly enough. Our routine is every Sunday morning, we make brunch, we go grocery shopping, and then I meal prep all Sunday afternoon. Of course, what works for me may not work for you, but figure out about 3 hours in your schedule to set aside for meal prepping. What do I mean by meal prepping? Well, start with your veggies or your fruits. Get out one cutting board and one good chopping knife. Prep all of your veggies. Wash them, dice them, spiralize them. Do whatever your recipes call for. Zip lock bags are the greatest invention ever. I prep all of my vegetables, label a zip lock, and fill the zip lock.
Here was my week’s worth of veggies. I have sliced mushrooms, minced spinach and green peppers, and spiralized zucchini (more on the wonders of spiralized vegetables later!). I ended up also chopping two onions and mincing some of the mushrooms as well. Place all of the bags in your refrigerator. I use the vegetable drawer for this.
Next, move on to your meats. You can rinse your veggie cutting board and knife and you can use the same equipment for your meats. This week, I made chicken jalapeno burgers. I didn’t even have to prep the meat, I just put my ground chicken into a bowl and added in my minced jalapenos, onions, garlic and seasonings. I formed the patties, placed them in wax paper, placed the packaged burgers in a zip lock and froze them. Now, whenever we want burgers, can just pull out however many we need and cook them from there. When I’m doing meats, I trim and cut my meats and either put it in an airtight container or I put it in a zip lock with the appropriate seasonings.
That’s about as much meal prep as I do. That takes maybe an hour or two depending on much you have to prepare.
My final step is to make whatever food I can ahead of time. I make my egg, veggie and bacon cups ahead of time for the whole week. Since all of my veggies are prepared, it’s easy to pull out a single bowl, mix together and put in a muffin tin. I homemade my own larabars (recipe to come) and put them in the fridge. I made all of my grilled chicken for the week so for lunches all I have to do is grab a piece of chicken. I cooked all of my spaghetti squash and put it in a container to be divided out later in the week.
Every night, my dinner prep is about 5 minutes, average about 15 minutes to cook, and within 30 minutes of being home, I’ll have dinner on the table. It really makes life more bearable and meal planning leaves you more time to enjoy your life!
I hope this has helped at least give you an idea of my process. I will go into depth about planning healthy meals and figuring out what you should be eating at a later date. Look forward to it!