Someone recently asked me to write about how Jordan and I meal plan and I laughed at them and said “ok sure. I’ll sum it up for you…”
Scene: Jordan and I sitting on the couch.
Jordan: We should meal plan, we waste too much food.
Amy: Ok, that’s a great idea! What do you want tomorrow night?
Jordan: I don’t know, how about chicken?
Amy: Ok, do we have chicken? Can you check the freezer?
Jordan: But I just sat down with my tea and my book (Obviously, ’cause I married a geriatric, English, university professor) – can you check?
Amy: But I’m comfyyyy
Our meal planning usually resembles something along those lines. We have the best intentions when it comes to meal planning, but somehow, things come up, I realize we are missing ingredients, we forget we’re going out for dinner. Things just don’t seem to come together. So finally, while reviewing our budget last month Jordan announced “do you know how many “50 dollar” trips we run to the grocery store just to pick something up? Like 4 or 5 a month!”.
That is on top of our usual “big shops” we do, plus the produce we get in our farm box biweekly. We were even throwing out farm fresh goodness because we weren’t using it all up! Such a waste, yikes! Jbakes finally says “I’d like to try to work really hard at just doing our weekly grocery shop and trying not to go to the store the rest of the week. Oooh you’re on! Challenge accepted. I finally I decided to get serious about this.
We’re a couple weeks into it and things seem to be working well, so I thought I’d share some of my best laid meal planning tips. Using these strategies we’ve seen a few bonuses – we don’t waste food, we eat what’s already in our cupboards, we eat healthier and JBakes personal favourite – we save money money money moonnnneeeyy. Win win win win win.
Ok, so here’s a few of my best used meal planning tips to fit any budget, schedule and palate:
1. Figure out your schedule – I realize this sounds obvious, but it took us a bit to realize that trying to make a meal plan Sunday to Sunday was impractical for us. In my mind – that is how the weeks work, therefore, that is how we should plan our weeks out. But alas – Sundays are an insane day for us and there is no way we’d ever have the time to shop or cook for that matter, on a Sunday. So therefore, our “meal plan week” runs Thursday to Thursday. Thursdays are the day we are able to realistically go out and do our big shop (we like doing this together) and put our weekly plan into action. We also try to touch base if we know one of us isn’t going to be home for dinner/we are going out somewhere for dinner – one less meal to plan!
2. Work with what you’ve got – In an effort to support local farms/eat a larger variety of veggies, we’ve been having an organic farm box dropped off at our house every other Tuesday. The other issue with trying to do our box on Sundays or Mondays is we weren’t able to predict what was going to come in the box and therefore we hadn’t created meals around things we already had. I also purposely carve out some time to sit down and make a plan because if I’m at home – I can check my cupboards and see if I have things I’ve forgotten (Oh hi there random can of diced tomatoes!)
3. Get your ducks in a row (A) I’ve now gotten in the groove of looking up the specific recipes I’m going to use and see what I need, even if I’ve made it a million times before. It saves me from those “Whoops, I forgot that one random things but it’s kind of important”. This way I know what I need for every recipe ahead of time and can combine similar ingredients. It also helps that I have a better idea of how much work/prep time a meal will take (ie – I’m not panicking at 5:30 that something still needs to chill for an hour before I can finish making it and I hadn’t read the recipe till right at that moment)
(B) I always make these grand plans “oh I’m going to make Pad Thai tonight, rosemary chicken tomorrow night and pasta the next night”. Now this one took me a while, but I find when I’m making 5 things that are completely different, here I am buying a bunch of cilantro only to use 2 tsp’s. Then I’m left with a bunch of cilantro with no other use. Now, if I’m using something very specific that won’t keep, I try and figure out other recipes I could make with it. (ie – Cilantro + Limes – Pad Thai, Guacamole, Cilantro Lime Chicken)
4. Clear the airways – Ahhh yes…communication, relationships and grocery shopping. Three things I love, three things that often don’t bode well together. Often our conversations post grocery runs go like this, “You went to the store?! Shoot, I meant to tell you to grab xyz – why didn’t you call me first?!” and presto – another trip to the store is needed and a refresher on how to call your wife before you get distracted. . Finally someone filled me in on a handy little app called “Our Groceries”. My little list making brain LOVES this app. I can make lists for each individual store, for each section (frozen, produce etc) and they can be shared between devices! Once one of us gets something on the list, we can cross it off or add something when it pops into our mind. Easy peasy – now if dish duty was this easily cleared up.
5. Prep! I love my slow cooker! But sometimes recipes take a little prep. On days I know I have an early morning, I’ll do my prep the night before and can chuck it in there in the morning with almost no fuss or cleanup. This goes for any meal, but I find it especially useful with my slow cooker. If I am running late in the morning and I’ve planned a slow cooker meal for the evening, it helps me to stay on track so I don’t just abandon my original meal plan because I’ve run out of time and no one has to eat hot dogs as an alternative
6. Plan a leftover day – Often with one or two of these meals we end up with leftovers and I often find they go to waste because I’m so bent on having a meal for every day. Now I purposely leave a day to eat all those leftovers! Since Sundays are such a crazy day for us and we often eat at different times – we purposely plan that to be our leftover day. Quick meals, no wasted food. Win-win.
Ok there you have it! Those are my best meal planning tips. They have definitely helped us in our dinner planning – maybe next I’ll move onto lunch prep :|. Do you guys have any tips that have helped you keep life a little more sane and organized? Do share!