Meal Planning 101: Week 1

I’m very passionate about meal planning. If you know me or have been reading my blog at all in the last couple of years, you know this. A wonderful mentor of mine, Christie, was the first to introduce me to the idea. She’s a mom of three and so organized. Christie and her husband Jason are earth friendly, so organized, and live strictly by their budget, which saves them a lot of money. Jason taught me about budgeting and even created a sample budget for me that I still use! And Christie taught me all about organization and meal planning. They were such a huge influence on my life in so many areas. As a graduate student in my apartment with my three roommates and on a super tight student budget the meal planning began. In the years since, it’s definitely become a hobby an obsession. Needless to say, I’m a HUGE advocate of meal planning and I’ll tell you why.

Reason #1 – It saves money. Really! It does. If you don’t meal plan and just shop when you come up with something, you know you always add extra things to the cart with each trip. Those extra things and extra trips add up. You also buy groceries with more intention. Yes, every kitchen needs staples. BUT when you don’t plan you aimlessly buy things you think you need, that you don’t actually need! I’ll address eating out later, BUT it also saves on your eating out cost. If you plan, you eat out way less and make meals you’re proud of that cost a fraction of the price they would at a restaurant.

Reason #2 – It cuts back on waste. It’s strategic! If you find one recipe you want to make that requires buttermilk, you find others to include in your plan that need buttermilk, thus you don’t waste the rest of that buttermilk. When you don’t plan, lots of things end up expiring and going to waste. Better for the environment and again.. YOUR POCKET! Green is in, haven’t you heard? (Now if only my state would jump on the green bandwagon and make recycling easier…)

Reason #3 – It’s healthier! When you plan your own meals you are much less likely to plan an abundance of unhealthy things. Planning also greatly cuts back on the amount of fast food stops and splurges you make (which again, also saves you money). Not to mention, when you plan and cook your own food, not only do you cut back on fat, but you control the amount of sodium, butter, oil, preservatives and exactly what goes into everything you eat.

Reason #4 – It’s exciting. The number one thing I hear from people who cook is that they get tired of cooking the same things. If you think and buy for meals on the fly, you’re always gonna gravitate to the same things. In meal planning you get to plan in your own excitement to your meals!

And so, I’ve always wanted to share meal plans with you guys, but I didn’t think there was an interest or market in boring things like that. Then I happened upon this blog! She posts recipes as well, but every Sunday she simply posts her weekly meal plan. I was/am inspired and have decided I’ll do the same! 
This was my meal plan from a couple of weeks ago. 

A quick few meal planning tips for you. 
1. Don’t be overwhelmed! Start small. Try it for one week at a time first. Currently I do two weeks at a time because that is my pay schedule (every other week). When I got paid once a month I did do it a month at a time. I planned the entire month and shopped only once a month. Yes! It is entirely possible. 
2. Use your resources! Those cook books you have? Break them out! Read them. Set little fun goals. When I was doing monthly planning, I set some guidelines like at least one new recipe a week and at least two recipes from my cookbooks a month. The internet is your cooking companion. Let’s call her you sous chef! There are SOOO many food blogs out there (if you want a list, I’ll be more than happy to hook you up). Set up Google Reader and subscribe to people who post great recipes so you see them often (I can also tell you how to do that if you need assistance). Pinterest is of course a great resource as well. 
3. Look at sale ads. I know Kroger and Target send weekly sale emails. Wal-mart has a weekly sale paper. Don’t be afraid of coupons! If you have a farmer’s market, find out when they sale things. Fresh produce is better and often cheaper. If you have a Sam’s Club, it’s not just for bulk items. I am a single person and every two weeks I visit Sam’s! Sam’s is wonderful for cheaper produce and meats. When I did monthly planning, I would wait to plan my meals until I knew what meats were on sale.
4. Have fun getting organized! Christie always had a big dry erase white board calendar where she recorded her meal plan. I posted a picture of the method to my madness above. I’ve tried apps and digital list makers, but there is just something I love about writing out my own list. I have a magnetic list on the fridge where I write random things I think of through out the week or things that I run out of. During the week, I type meal ideas and ingredients into a Google Tasks list. The day before I will be doing my shopping, I plan out 5-6 full meals, make my shopping list, look at my Google Calendar and input when I will eat which meals there, and then write them out on my weekly paper magnetic pad so I see it every day on the refrigerator.
With a family you’d need to cook more than 3 times a week, but I’m just me so I eat leftovers about every other day. I usually plan a fish dish, chicken dish, ground turkey/beef dish, and a vegetarian dish. Depending on which meat I bought more of that week, I either do two chicken dishes or two fish dishes. I buy chicken breasts and tilapia in bags from Sam’s so I always have more of those. (And they are healthy!)
And without further adieu… this weeks plan! 
Sunday: 
-Leftover Italian Sausage and Spinach Baked Pasta with Olive Garden Copycat Salad and Dressing (From an Italian themed dinner party. One of my friends made the pasta and it was amazing! I don’t even like sausage and I loved it. I’m going to try to get the recipe from her to share with you.)
Monday: 
Tuesday: 

Wednesday:
-Leftovers

Thursday:
BLT Lettuce Wraps with Baked Zucchini Fries with Sweet Onion Dip (I’ll be “skinnying the onion dip)

Friday:
-Leftovers

Saturday:
-Fruit Salsa topped Tilapia with Coconut Milk Wild Rice

Last tips! Always include a veggie and stay away from double starches (like potatoes, rice, and pasta). Try to include things of different colors, make your meal pretty like the rainbow.

I will also be making a skinny homemade Red Velvet Cake for one of my RA’s birthdays this week.

What are you making this week?

4 thoughts on “Meal Planning 101: Week 1

  1. Kristy says:

    I SO need to do this! I never have… I end up going to the store several times a week, and spend way more than I should. If my household was just me, I fear I would live off of coffee, cereal, toast, pasta and an occasional steak! But, since it isn't just me, I have to have so many things stocked and seem to always run out. Any posts on meal planning would help people like me!

    Like

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