It’s rarely the first thing on our minds, but meal planning helps ensure we can eat healthier, save money and avoid those impromptu (and expensive) meals out. If you’re planning meals for two, it can get a bit trickier, but with a plan on your side, meal planning can save you time and money, and of course, it’s delicious, too.
Determine Your Goal
You’ve decided to look into meal planning and there is a reason why. Do you want to avoid processed foods, save money, stop wasting food or what has motivated you to get a little more organized with eating at your home? Think about that reason why as you plan your meals and you’re more likely to achieve your goal.
Plan Around Your Grocery Store Visits
Some people meal plan once per week. Others do it every few days. What you decide is completely up to you and will likely revolve around your grocery store visits. If you shop only once per week, then a weekly plan will probably work for you. If you like picking up fresh goods on a more regular basis, plan accordingly.
Make a List of Recipes and Favorite Foods
Before starting your current meal plan, make a list of recipes you love and all your favorite foods. Also, look online and in your cookbooks for recipes you’d like to try. If the portions are too large for your 2-person home, consider scaling the recipe or freezing unused portions.
Keep this master list as inspiration for your individual meal plans and don’t forget to ask your partner for input as well. Together, you can come up with a great list to keep meal times exciting. You can even keep it on the fridge or in a central location, so you can keep adding to it.
Now you’re ready to start your current meal plan. Here are a few things you should do:
Check Your Stock
Always check your pantry, fridge and freezer for available items. Think about how you can incorporate these into your meal plan. For example, if you’ve got some leftover rice, you might pick up some fresh vegetables and some chicken for a nice stir-fry. Or if it looks like the eggs are about to expire, it might be time for a delicious frittata or quiche.
Check Flyers and Websites
If you’re on a budget, it’s a great idea to leaf through your local flyers or store websites for specials and coupons. If there’s a special on ground beef, it might be the perfect time to make your special stroganoff with meat loaf.
Make Your Plan
Now that you know what you’ve got and what’s on sale, you can plan your meals. Many people just plan dinners, but if you plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll get more out of your meal planning, no matter what your ultimate goal is.
As you plan your meals, think about how ingredients from one meal can be used in another. It’ll save you time and cash. If you’re looking to stay healthier, it’s more likely to keep you from grabbing some takeout if some of the work is already done for you. For example, if you steam some broccoli with Thursday night’s dinner, you can chop it more finely and add it to Saturday afternoon’s frittata.
Make Your Grocery List
Once your meals are planned, it’s time to make your grocery list. Go through each recipe and meal idea and determine which ingredients you already have and what you need to purchase. To avoid over-buying, always put the amount of the ingredient you need for your recipes. For example, if you need 2 zucchinis for a side dish you’re making and you’re not likely to eat any extras, write down that you need 2. It’s a simple thing, but helps ensure you only get what you need.
Evaluate and Talk About It
When you’re ready to work on your next meal plan, evaluate the previous one and talk about it with your partner. Which recipes did you like, didn’t like or how could some be adjusted? Also take some time to think about where you could have reused ingredients in other meals, chosen healthier options and anything else that affects your ultimate meal planning goals. The more effort you put into the details now, the easier meal planning will become and you’re more likely to reach your goals.