Ah, meal plans.
I used to hate them with the passion of 1,000 fires. Seriously—who would take the time to plan a meal schedule days in advance when you can have the endless freedom of an open kitchen? I want to live as free as a butterfly and waft wherever the culinary winds may take me. Weee!
But, most of the time those winds came from a smelly garbage can because I never had the foresight to actually fill up my kitchen with good food. Instead, I’d go to the grocery store and buy 5 boxes of Eggo waffles and a bag of Skittles. Then I’d buy hamburgers and fries each week for dinner.
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With a diet like that I was heading more towards being a fat, broke Jabba The Hutt than a carefree butterfly.
That’s why I started to create my own meal plans. And, the truth is, it doesn’t take a lot of time to plan things out. In fact, I’d argue that it takes more time to not plan than it does to sit your ass down and write a freakin’ meal plan.
To prove it to you, last week I actually timed myself to see how much time it took me to go through the following process. The result? 21 minutes and 24 seconds. That’s it. I think I can find that much time in a week. Here’s what I do:
Check For Sales At Your Grocery Store
Before I plan my meals for the week, I always check for sales items. Meat is one of the biggest grocery bill busters. By planning your meals around what fresh meat is on sale, you can cut your grocery bill in half.
This is where my handy-dandy recipe bank comes in. If I know chicken is on sale, I’ll browse through the list for chicken recipes. Or the grass-fed bison I’ve had my eye on for years, but that never goes on sale. Oh well. One can dream.
I used to get a newspaper subscription just to get the circulars and coupons. I dropped the service, though, because I can find the circulars online and print off coupons through sites like Coupons.com for free. Sure, I don’t get as many good coupons, but was it worth the price in terms of savings? I don’t think so.
After I check the online circular at my local grocery store, I check Ibotta. It’s a phone app that offers rebates for grocery items, and it’s free and simple to use.
My favorite thing about Ibotta is that it always has rebates for healthy foods like milk and produce. It’s harder to find coupons for these things than a good shot of whiskey in a nunnery. They also always have rebates for generic food items like coffee creamer, milk, or bacon (yaaaaaaaaas!).
Create A Meal Plan And A Grocery List
After I’ve figured out what’s on sale, I draft up a meal plan. This is where the handy list of recipes comes in.
I do this in Excel, because spreadsheets still make me happy, even if it’s a single row:
We only go grocery shopping once a week, so we plan to eat all the most perishable items first. More shelf-stable things like pasta and processed meats can come later in the week. We also try to make sure that we cook family-sized recipes early in the week, so we have enough leftovers to bring to lunch the next day(s).
We always try to eat fish at least once a week, and it’s not always advertised as being on sale in the online circular. So, we just show up at the fish counter and usually buy whatever’s on sale. The good thing about fish is that even if you don’t have a recipe on hand, you can always just pop it in the oven with some butter and seasonings and it’ll be fine.
After I’ve got a list of meals for the week, I draw up a grocery list of what I’ll need. I also do this on my phone, because technology. The app I use is ShopListFree, although there’s a ton of other free ones to use, and you can even use pen and paper if you’re not hip with the times.
My Meal Plan Made My Life Amazeballs
Dudes, I could not live without my meal plan. This planning process makes the rest of the week go so much smoother. It’s not as chaotic anymore when I come home hungry and there’s nothing in the pantry besides a banana and two crunchy hamburger buns.
It also cuts down on food waste because I’m not buying random stuff. Each purchase is well-thought-out, lean, mean, calorie-controlled food item.
Seriously, I don’t even know how I survived this long after moving out of my parent’s home 12 years ago. I don’t know how I didn’t waste away into a twiglet. But, because I took the time to create a meal plan (regardless of what my free-spirit self wanted), my wallet and my belly are finally full at the same time.
Do you plan for grocery shopping? If so, what is your planning process? Leave a comment below!