Meal planning can be a time-consuming job and often times, this is why we just
give up on it and just go get whatever looks appealing at the store and be done
with it. I know from experience that this leads to wasted money, extra
trips to the store, frustration and cooking boredom.
So what's the solution? The solution I came up with was pre-planned 3-day
menus complete with shopping lists. This way, I’d only have to do the work
once for a given menu, then from there on, that menu would be hassle-free.
This method also allows me to work in new recipes.
Meat is usually the most expensive part of the shopping list, so this is why it
is the biggest factor in my menu planning. On a given week (I like to shop
weekly for the sales to save money), there is usually 1 or 2 different meats*
on sale that I’ll buy for the good prices. This is why I make my menus for
3 days - so I can use the two sale meats* in my menu plan (I pick out 2 menus
that include the 2 meats I‘ll be using). This ads up to 6 meals within a week -
I don't plan 7 meals because we usually have at least one (usually more) meal
per week with enough leftovers to make up for that 1 missing meal (and of
course, there‘s always those nice days when we get to go out to dinner!). Maybe
you or I will have leftovers after each meal and extend our shopping trips and
save us money! *Note: if you happen to be a vegetarian, simply plan your
meals around the produce sales.
Here is the step-by-step instructions for making pre-planned, 3-day menus:
1. Choose the *meat you'd like to include in your meal plan.
To help decide, look at what meats are on sale in your weekly grocery store
2. On a sheet of paper (or a page in your word processing program on your
computer), label Meal 1 and leave a few spaces to fill in a main dish,
vegetable, bread, etc. (whatever food groups you like to have included in your
meal), then do the same for Meal 2 and Meal 3.
3. Fill in the names of the recipes you want to include in each meal.
For this part, you can use your tried and true recipes or fill in new ones
you've been wanting to try. If the recipes are from a cookbook, list the
name of the cookbook with the page the recipe is on in parentheses so you can
find it later, or, if you'd like, you can write the recipes on additional sheets
of paper (or additional pages in your document on the word processing program)
to include with your menu for ease of use later.
4. Make the shopping list. On an additional sheet of paper, include
all the ingredients from each recipe you used in Step 2. If an ingredient
is included in more than one recipe, simply increase the amount on your list.
It's nice to categorize these, but not necessary.
I suggest making a basic shopping list for yourself that includes items you use
all the time such as fresh fruits & vegetables, milk, eggs, bread, flour, sugar,
etc. These are the items you always want to have on hand.
You can organize your meal plans in a 3-ring binder and section them off by
meat. Obviously the more 3-day menus you have, the better. Yes, this
can be time consuming to begin with, but it is time well invested because later
there will be hardly any work involved. When it comes time to go shopping
all you'll have to do is look up two appealing 3-day menus that include your
sale meats, write down the items you need from those and your basic shopping
list, then go shopping.