Always an item on my To-Do list or task list.
- Sometimes this task is as simple as looking at the menu, making the meal and maybe thawing something for the next day. Ideally, while always on the menu on our Bulletin Board in the kitchen would also all be written in my planner.
- Other times this task is full blown Meal Planning for the week or month ahead. This process is ultimately the same
- Length of planning period
- Menu Creation
- Grocery List
- Grocery Shopping
General Meal Planning Scenario
As I mentioned before, we tried meal planning for a whole month for two months in a row and it worked very well when purging the pantry and freezer. This was more difficult when working with a weekly system such as emeals. Ultimately, I think the data (if I’d been collecting it back then..hint hint!) would show we (me, personally) are more successful at monthly planning than weekly planning when it comes to actually eating what we plan. [Currently, I will be planning and C will be cooking.]
Sometime between Thursday and Sunday late afternoon I sit down with the computer and a menu print out. I use the same one every week if I am planning for the week or this one if it is for the month. I simply made something quick and easy in excel that would work for us.
If I am freely planning, I look at websites for inspiration like this (however, I always make these recipes with whole ingredients or leave the ingredient out) or this and select a few recipes to try. If either of us has gotten an email with an interesting recipe then maybe that will make it into the menu as well.
If I’m planning to use what we have in the pantry and/or freezer, I search for meals using the item we have the most of…this is how I found our recipe for quinoa enchiladas (abundance of quinoa!). This next time, we have a TON of gluten-free pasta…bring on the Cheesy Squashy Pasta!
- This method works well when planning for a week or a month. Works best when your freezer is stocked with meat and/or veggies and convenience foods.
If I’m utilizing emeals, I print out the menus emailed to me on Wednesday and select 4-6 meals to cook for the week. I don’t cook the shrimp dishes…or the overly exotic ones. I select the meals and add them to the menu for the week along with lunches.
Next, I generate a grocery list based on what we have and what we need for the items planned. If I am free planning, I simply add the ingredients I know we don’t have from the recipes I selected and anything else I want to make that week.
If I am working on purging the freezer and pantry, I work hard to make a minimal list. I have no problem buying ingredients to make the recipes, but the goal isn’t to go overboard and it isn’t to restock the supply. For example, if we’re having stroganoff because we need to use up the egg noodles and sour cream we have, we hopefully do not need to buy either of those ingredients to complete the meal. These are generally simple meals so the monthly list that is generated is small and budget friendly since we can purchase items for the month as they go on sale.
With emeals I work through the grocery list they send me. There is an app that goes with emeals and this will generate your menu and grocery list based on what you select automatically but I found this to be too overwhelming. I learn and remember best when I write things down so I go through the printed grocery list and write down what we need. I forget to look at the staples needed for recipes so occasionally things didn’t go as planned for dinner.
Once, I tried to streamline the grocery list and shopping process by making this comprehensive shopping list. It was similar to this one. I could just check off what I needed to purchase from the master list and it was so organized…but again, I’d end up forgetting too many things because I never physically wrote it down. It may have also been too organized? Often, I can remember the list contents even if I’ve forgotten the list if it was a handwritten list.
Regardless of the method of planning or grocery list contents, I will often end up going to at least two stores during the week, often two that weekend. For example, there are some things that are most reasonably priced at Costco as opposed to Fred Meyer. In addition , there are things that are cheaper at Whole Foods than they are at Fred Meyer or the local fresh markets.
I have not generally had a grocery budget to stay within but try to be cognizant of what items cost and making sure I am paying as little as possible for them. This will all change sooooon!