Budget Smart Girl will soon start focusing on ways to make money, building a business, earning more income. One thing that can get in the way is deciding what’s for dinner. To kick off our new focus here’s a two part post. This first one will be about meal planning, tomorrow’s all about meal prepping.
What is Meal Planning?
Before you can start on your meal prep, you need to plan your meals. Naturally, this is what you are going to focus on with meal planning. Meal planning is nothing more than figuring out what meals you are going to make in the near future. It can be as detailed as you want, though the more information you include in your meal scheduling, the better off you will be. By starting with meal planning, you will then know what and how to better meal prep. This is going to help save you time because you aren’t running to the supermarket every day trying to figure out what to get for dinner that night. You already know the meals for at least a week beforehand. Here is a rundown of how meal planning works, though keep in mind there is a lot of room for variation.
How Many Weeks to Plan For
The first thing you should decide is exactly how much meal planning you want to do, in regards to how many days or weeks to plan ahead of time. This really depends on you and a number of factors should be considered. Think about how much time you have for meal planning and prepping, how often your family likes to switch up recipes, and realistically what you can spend at the supermarket for planning these meals. You should also consider how much room you have in your refrigerator and freezer. Planning for 3 weeks ahead of time is fine for the schedule, but you might not be buying food for this long if you don’t have somewhere to put everything. When you are just starting out, try to plan for just one full week and see how it goes. This should include all meals and snacks your family will eat for that entire week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. It includes meals you will prepare at home with leftovers, lunches your kids and you will bring to work or school, and any extra items you need, such as bringing brownies to the local potluck or any other special occasions.
A Good Way to Start Meal Planning
If you’re not sure where to start with planning your meals, you can make it easy by taking stock of what is in your kitchen. Take note of everything in your pantry and refrigerator, write it down, and see what meals you can make from those ingredients. This should be a good start, and then all you might need are some filler ingredients. You may have almost all of the ingredients you need for homemade biscuits, so you know you can have a meal that uses those biscuits as a way of saving money and time. Once you know everything you already have, start considering what the different meals are that your family will be interested in, but don’t forget about considering how each of those meals will be prepared. If you know you will be pressed for time, try to think of meals you can make ahead of time or that can be made in the slow cooker all day while you are at work.
How to Be Detailed in Your Meal Plans
Once you have started noting down some meals you would like to make during the week, try to be as detailed as possible. If you think you will have leftovers from a chicken dinner in order to have lunch for 2-3 days, note that in the plan! This helps you reduce how many lunches you need to prepare, which further saves you a lot of time when it comes time to prepare your different meals for the week. After listing the meals, make another list with all the groceries you need to purchase, minus what you already have on hand.
Leaving Room For Flexibility Throughout the Week
While planning every meal is a great way to save time during the week, there are going to be some situations where it doesn’t go quite as you planned out. Make sure you leave some room for flexibility in your meals and meal planning. For example, you might have a day where you want to go out to dinner because your spouse got a big promotion and you want to celebrate. Don’t hesitate to celebrate just because you planned to make spaghetti that night. Just readjust your schedule and make it another night. Meal planning is meant to simplify the process, not restrict yourself too much.
Include Leftovers in Your Plan
Always try to think about leftovers or using certain ingredients in your meal planning that can be used for multiple meals. If you know you want to make chicken and dumplings and are going to buy a pack of chicken breasts, buy more than you need and freeze them. This lets you have enough chicken for that meal, but also for chicken soup, salads, sandwiches, or other dinner ideas. You are going to save money and time by having the extra chicken on hand.