Ahhh, the forever dreaded weekly meal planning. I hear it alllll the time. “How do you come up with different things to eat? I cook the same 5 meals all the time. It’s so much easier to just get takeout.” Yes, it’s definitely easier to get takeout, but it’s a whole lot easier on the wallet (and your body) to cook at home. And not just cook at home, but actually plan meals for the week and make one trip to the grocery store. I love going out to eat as much as the next person, but it feels like my only options to get semi-healthy food out cost me an arm and a leg. Not to mention if you grab cocktails for date night.
I hear people often say things like “I just stop each day after work and decide what I want that night.” While I commend the ability to be spontaneous, have you ever heard the saying “Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it and spend it rather than invest it.” Not planning out your weekly menu, relying on daily grocery runs, or getting takeout on the regular are great ways to kill and spend our time instead of investing it in ourselves and our families. Don’t get me wrong, I have forgotten key ingredients and had to make extra grocery runs, but those instances are the minority. I can assure you it can be much less time consuming to make a list and one grocery run each week, and I have some tips on how to do it.
- Check your planner. Whether you’re old school like me with the paper planner, or you’re tech savvy and use your phone, your planner is an important first step in meal planning. Personally, my husband travels for work, so it’s important to see when he will be on the road and I’m cooking for 1. I also check for planned girls nights. The biggest waste of money is buying 5 nights worth of groceries only to realize you’ll actually only be home for dinner 3 nights that week. So that’s my first step. Ask myself, “Which nights do I need a meal, and for how many people?”
- Write it down. My next step is grabbing a notebook and writing down the days I need a meal for. This helps me see it from a bird’s eye view and avoid planning too similar of meals.
- Decide what you want to eat. This might be the hardest part. Is there a meal you’ve been craving? A recipe you’ve been wanting to try from your favorite cookbook? A dish you saw on Pinterest that looked totally manageable? Something your mom used to make that you’re nostalgic for? Are you feeling brave and wanting to recreate your favorite dish from that restaurant you always go to? These questions are primarily how I come up with what I’m cooking each week. There’s inspiration all around you for meal ideas. And if you’re still drawing a blank, I hope you’ll use my recipes as a resource. Or hop onto my excel sheet with hundreds of meal ideas for a change of pace.
- Make a list. Anytime I just show up to the grocery store with a couple meal ideas in my head, I buy the most random assortment of ingredients, and I fail miserably and end up getting takeout. For each meal idea you come up with, write down all the ingredients it calls for, strike through any you’re sure you have in the pantry, and the rest you’re picking up! Simple. As. That.
- Input the list into your favorite grocery app. If we have one thing to thank the pandemic for, it’s more useful grocery apps and cheaper grocery pickup! I never utilized grocery pickup before, but now, like clockwork, I put my list into my H-E-B app, and it tells me which aisle to find each product on (making for much more efficient in-store trips) or quickly allows me to add my list to my cart and choose a pickup time. The best part is that most companies have free pickup if you order in enough advance – sometimes they have free same day pickup. I wouldn’t hold your breath for that on a Sunday though. Kroger and Walmart pickup is free with $35 minimum (FYI :))
Now I’m not going to tell you that this list will magically make grocery planning stop sucking, but I do feel pretty confident that being consistent and doing this weekly will make your life a lot smoother and hold you accountable to eat at home more often. What’s that saying people always say? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Do yourself a favor. Start with some easy recipes that call for minimal ingredients. Get yourself acquainted with being in the kitchen. Before you know it, you’ll likely be a pro.