Wednesday, October 8, 2014

my take on meal planning

It's been a long road to get to the point where I feel confident and successful in meal planning. I used to buy a few essentials each week and wait for inspiration to strike in terms of what to make each night. Inevitably this led to more trips to the grocery store or forgoing cooking in favor of take-out food. Most of our pre-baby days were spent like this. Now, it's much more important to me to cook at home and make meals that are quick and enjoyed by all three of us. I would say I spend about 30 minutes planning each week (making a list, etc.) and about 20 - 30 minutes each night prepping dinner. Here are some steps that have helped me with meal planning and grocery shopping:
1. I plan meals for a month at a time. Before a new month arrives, I go through my magazines (Real Simple, Cooking Light), Pinterest board, and our favorite recipes and write them all down on the calendar. I plan for 5-6 meals a week, assuming we'll have at least one engagement out of the house or leftovers one night.
2. I try to plan 3 meat meals a week. I would be happy eating less but I think that Nick and Hayden like to have the meat.
3. I try and plan meals with similar ingredients for the same week, so I'm not buying one speciality item and then letting it go bad.
4. I use the ZipList app which is available online and syncs to my phone. I'm a big fan because I can sort the items by store and grocery section (i.e. dairy, produce, etc.).

5. I try to make meals that will have leftovers- good for lunches during the week or to freeze for when Baby Girl arrives and all my careful planning flies out the window ;)
6. I stick to a budget. We prefer to buy mostly organic/local ingredients which means we pay a little more for our groceries. However, by shopping for most of our produce at the farmer's market, buying meat for only 3 meals, and shopping at more than one store- we are able to stay on budget each week. I'm not a couponer and I don't think I ever will be... I usually hit up Trader Joe's, Target, and Whole Foods. As much as I'd love to do all our shopping at Whole Foods, I limit our dairy and meat shopping and a few speciality items to that store. Trader Joe's is good for cheap basics like chicken stock, olive oil, or dried fruit. Target is where I buy our prepackaged food items (Nick likes to eat the evol breakfast burritos, Hayden likes Annie's snacks, and we like Noosa yogurt from there). It takes a little more time to hit up 3 stores instead of one but Hayden and I can make it through all of them on a Monday morning in about an hour and a half. 

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