Ok! Now that you've put your list together of your favorite meals now the next step will be to start meal planning.
Typically, you will want to meal plan every week and pick a set day of the week to plan on. This will help you plan your week for errands on when to get groceries. For my purposes, I get an organic bountiful basket every other week. This helps my planning because I pick up the basket on saturday mornings first thing and then I plan what we will eat that week based on what's in the basket.
The first thing to do is gather your template. I like to use this one by unclutterer (scroll down to PDF download) because it has all the slots I need.
Once you have your meal plan template printed out, start by going through your fridge and make a list of all the thing you want to use before it goes bad. For example, lettuce, carrots, yogurt, chicken, tortillas, mozzarella cheese, etc. Then I try to match those things up with what is in my cupboard already and based on my favorite meals list, come up with some meals. Write those down on the back of your menu plan, don't put them in your meal spaces yet.
After you've finished making as many meals as possible out of what you have in the cupboard, you might find you are missing an ingredient or 2, add it to your shopping list to make those meals completed.
Next, you need to figure out what else you want to eat this week. This might be based on your schedule (how many nights will we be away from home or out late and need a quick and easy meal?) Some people like to plan this around what's on sale at the grocery store.
After watching food inc, my method for food planning has changed completely. I cannot look at a hamburger in the same way. :( I no longer do the grocery store sale watching route. I typically do the rest of my meal planning around what is in season and available locally. I do this by going to my local farmers market to stock up on eggs, poultry and meat. They also often have local nuts, fairtrade coffee, goats milk, cheeses, honey and more.
Add anything you are missing from your cupboards to your shopping list. Make sure to include the things you want to eat for snacks and any breakfasts/lunches in the home. I typically eat the same 2 things every morning - toast with fruit or yogurt with freezer jam and raw honey. So, I always make sure to keep those things in my home. The bread is baked or bought in bulk and frozen and I pull out a fresh loaf as needed. I buy the other items in bulk as well
And finally, add any other basics you need to the list - butter? milk? yogurt? bread? Now your shopping list is complete.
Start to write down your meals for the week in each of the daily slots to queue up what you are going to eat. I recommend eating the things that will go bad earlier in the week and also make sure to plan around days and activities where you will be home late for an easier meal.
And that's it - your meal planning and shopping list is done for the week!
A few notes on meal planning -
- I always recommend keeping a few easy to make items in your cupboards for those nights when everything goes crazy and you barely have time to eat. For those nights I keep a frozen bertolli pasta dinner and supplement with fresh greens and some bread. Or, we heat up a can of soap, make a salad and slice a loaf of bread.
- If you're looking for an easy way to get started with menu planning, I highly recommend E-Mealz. You download a new menu from the site every week and can choose from many options like lowfat, gluten free, etc. They also plan meals around certain supermarkets deals to make eating at home a little bit more money saving.
- One of the things I've been doing lately is taking cooking classes online through this neat little site. She is a bit of a minimalist in that her meals only ever use 5 ingredients. She had a 10 minute soup class - I love it! Very easy and healthy meals that come together quickly! I'm working on a "reclaim your waistline" class now!
I'll post my menu a little later this week (I went away this weekend so my schedule is a bit off) - but in the meantime, how do you meal plan? Any favorite tricks you'd like to share with the rest of us?