One of my favorite weekly activities is grocery shopping. But before I run out to the store and go nuts, I spend a little time planning what I want to eat and what ingredients I need to get – also known as meal planning.
MEAL PLANNING – AN IMPORTANT SKILL TO HAVE
It saves you money.
When you plan ahead and shop only for what you need, you end up saving money. Without planning ahead of time you are more likely to make impulse buys, miss good sales, and buy ingredients or products with little thought as to what you’re going to do with it.
It saves you time.
When you meal plan, you save time that would have been spent trying to figure out what to make and having to revisit the grocery store to buy missing ingredients. With a plan, you already have all the ingredients and know exactly what you’re making that week.
It reduces food waste.
When you plan ahead you help reduce food waste because you have a use for each ingredient in your refrigerator. You also won’t over purchase. Produce is less likely to go bad and end up in the trash if you know what you’re using it for that week.
Meal planning is a skill I have improved over the last ten years. It is something I enjoy doing and would not even consider going to the grocery store without a plan (unless I’m craving chocolate). So I would like to share with you my routine so that you can also plan amazing meals throughout the week, save money and reduce food waste.
MY 7 STEPS TO MEAL PLANNING
Follow these 7 easy steps to plan next week’s grocery run. I promise you it will make your life so much easier.
1. Take stock of what you already have
The first thing I do is give my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry a look so I know what ingredients I already have or what has been left over from the last week. By doing this, I can plan meals and snacks that will use ingredients I already have – saving me money and reducing the number of groceries I will need to buy.
2. Scan online flyers for sales
After taking a look at what I already have at home, I scan online flyers of grocery stores I frequent to find out what is on sale that week. This allows me to choose recipes using seasonal and reduced-price ingredients, saving me money.
3. Browse Pinterest and cookbooks for recipes
Now that I know what ingredients I have and what is on sale, I start to look for recipes I would like to make. I usually choose 1-2 new recipes to make with each grocery run. These recipes usually provide 4 meals each and if they don’t turn out good, because I hadn’t tried the recipe before, then I still have the rest of the food I bought that week.
Tip: I like to use the Indexes at the back of cookbooks or inputting an ingredient in Pinterest to see what comes up. For example, if I had half a bag of red lentils in my pantry I might try and find a recipe that has red lentils as its main ingredient.
4. Make two lists – A grocery list and a meal list
I make two lists for my meal planning: a grocery list and a meal list.
The grocery list is what I will take to the store and consists of the ingredient list I made for that week. This is usually for a couple of recipes and the rest is staples that I could use to whip up whatever I’m in the mood for (toast and peanut butter anyone?).
The meal list is a list I make as I choose recipes and decide how I want to use other ingredients I have or plan to buy. This reminds me of what the ingredients I purchased are for and I can just refer to my meal list for quick ideas. Without the list, I have accidentally used ingredients I had planned on using to make something else, which can be annoying.
5. Store produce for best shelf-life
After you have made your grocery run, you want your produce to last the full week if you shop weekly. Over the last 10 years, I have learned tips and tricks that help me prolong the life of my produce.
The most useful tricks I’ve learned is to store asparagus with the tips in water like you find them at the grocery store; to do the same with fresh herbs but also place a plastic produce bag over the top of them to keep it moist, store carrots and celery in water and store leafy greens in a seal tight container with paper towels and they will not wilt!
Check out this post by Zero Waste Memoirs for storing produce without the use of plastic.
6. Plan meals according to shelf-life of produce
Another way I ensure that all ingredients get used at their freshest is to plan what I eat according to the produce’s shelf-life. If I bought romaine lettuce for salads and carrots for roasting, I would probably consume the lettuce first as it will go bad faster than the carrots would. This helps reduce food waste and you get to enjoy your produce while they are still crispy and fresh.
7. Freeze half of the recipe
The last trick I use is to freeze half of the large recipes. I’m only one person and don’t cook for anyone else. Sometimes I would rather save half the recipe for later in the month instead of eating it 5 days in a row! This is a good trick to use if you need to use up old ingredients you don’t want to throw out.
I hope these tips help you plan your next grocery run. I’m already looking forward to mine!
These tips work for me as a single person. Do you have any more tips that work for you or for a family? Share in the comments below!