4 Meal Planning Tips
Hi, I'm Kelly Alberts and I live in the Philadelphia suburbs with my husband, Joel. I work with middle school students during the day and follow cool people on their blogs in my free time. I love reading, cooking, writing, and traveling with my husband. Read more of my ramblings at Philadelphia Filly.
Meal planning is one of my favorite ways to stick to a budget. I find a ton of joy in thinking through what we have in our kitchen, listing what I need, and purchasing food to make creative, healthy meals.
My husband Joel and I have always been conscientious of our money, but because I lost my job this past June, I’ve recently become even more aware (and even more frugal!). Planning 6-7 meals a week takes time and effort, but is truly rewarding. Not only are our meals full of good stuff, they’re much less expensive than eating out regularly!
I’ve read a LOT of excellent meal-planning posts around the Web lately. They have great ideas on how to start, but I ultimately had to find a system that worked for me. Here’s the gist:
- Check the local fliers to see what’s on sale. This helps me get meal ideas and I can think through my options clearly. [For example, if chicken drumsticks are cheap that week, I’ll buy a big package and we’ll eat them for two dinners with different sides. Or if beef is more expensive, we’ll make do with chicken and more veggie-based options.]
- Look through what I already have. This mostly involves main dishes. If I have frozen chicken, beef, ravioli, or something like that in the freezer, it gives me a base for a meal. I also get a good grasp on what staples are in the cupboard so I don’t end up buying something I won’t use.
- Make a shopping list: the top half of mine lists things to buy at the store; the bottom half lists each day of the week and the dinner I’ve planned for that night. [I also try to make my shopping list in order of the store’s layout to save myself time while shopping, but this takes some time to master!]
- Shop! If I have time, I go to Aldi for some basics before my regular store because it’s slightly cheaper. If not, I start at the grocery store and purchase everything I need in one trip. [This helps me avoid the impulse purchases that will likely occur if I go back later in the week for something I accidentally forgot the first time around! ]
Due to a recent awareness about eating organic and/or local, I’ve begun a new experiment: going to our local farmer’s market every Saturday morning. I try to purchase a bunch of fresh produce there and then plan my meals around what I can get. It’s only been two weeks since I first tried this, but keep your eyes peeled for how that’s going on my blog.
So what about you? Do you plan your meals, or are you more spontaneous? If you’re a planner, what’s your system?