Meal planning is an essential task for most home cooks. My current meal planning strategy is pretty simple – pick recipes, write up my grocery list, and shop for groceries. This strategy has worked for me for a while, but I have found that there’s a lot of room for improvement.
It’s important to identify what you want to accomplish by meal planning. When I started meal planning years ago, my main goal was to simply get food on the table. Now my goals have shifted and I’m aiming to eat healthier, prevent food waste, and save money.
When choosing recipes for the week, I tend to mainly pick new recipes to try. It’s a lot of fun to make something new, but it also has its downsides. If the recipe is a total bomb, we won’t want to eat the leftovers. Or sometimes the recipes I pick have wildly different ingredients, and I have a hard time using up all of the leftover ingredients before they go bad. Both situations create food waste, which is bad for the earth and bad for my bank account.
My current strategy also doesn’t incorporate meal preparation on the weekends. This means that all of the actual cooking is done after a long day at work. I tend to avoid cooking food that requires longer cooking times, which leaves us missing out on some really healthy and delicious meals. And occasionally, I ditch cooking altogether and get take-out instead. Bad for my waistline, and again, bad for my bank account.
On top of what I currently do for meal planning, I’m going to focus on choosing recipes that I already know and love, and incorporating only one new recipe per week. Additionally, if I can’t buy just what I need for one recipe, I want to choose ingredients where the excess will fit into other recipes. For example, instead of romaine I might buy spinach, which I can use to make a spinach salad, but also can be cooked with pasta or soup. And lastly, I want to incorporate meal prep time into my Sunday schedule so I can roast vegetables, boil rice, and cook any other items that take a bit more time and use them during the week.
Do you have a meal planning strategy? If you have tips, I’d love to see them in the comments!