Happy Friday everyone and welcome to another edition of Beyond Food Fridays! A few weeks ago I shared a picture of my meal plan on my instagram feed which led to some questions about my process and also a request for the template I use. And since Fridays are the day I typically do all my meal planning for the following week I figured today would be a great day to finally share some meal planning tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the last 2+ years and to share the template I use with you guys.
I started meal planning a little over two years ago shortly after I got married in an attempt to save some money since I wasn’t working at the time. Meal planning is great if you’re on a budget because you buy only what you need and so you end up wasting less food. I’m sure we all have had those times when you go to the grocery store and you’re absolutely starving so everything looks delicious and so you buy all sorts of things you don’t need. And then you get home and put the food away and your fridge is totally stuffed and things get shoved to the back, hidden behind other groceries. By the end of the week, when you’ve eaten everything you can easily see without digging through your fridge, you’re left with the not so pretty lookin’ produce that was hiding in the back. And then you feel horrible because you’ve wasted food when there are starving kids in Africa and all that jazz… So not ideal! By making my meal plan ahead of time, I go to the store with a list, buy exactly what I need (with maybe an additional goody or two, because I’m human and not perfect), and end up eating everything I buy, saving money and limiting waste. Awesome, right?!?!
Having your meals planned out for the week also helps you avoid those questions of “what are we having for dinner tonight?” that inevitably come around 5:30 pm. Of course, my husband still asks me this question nearly every night and each time I tell him to go look at the meal plan that is conveniently located on the fridge…one day he’ll learn I’m sure. (If you’re reading this, I love you honey!)
If you’re one of those super spontaneous people who totally lives in the moment and is perfectly in tune with your body so you know exactly what you want to eat when you want to eat it, first of all I’m jealous, and second of all you’re probably thinking “how the heck am I supposed to know what I want to eat in two days (or three or five)?” Well if that’s the case, meal planning may not be for you because it does take away the whole “what do I feel like eating right now” thing. But for those people who work full time (like me) and don’t have time to stop by the store to pick up whatever groceries are needed for that night’s dinner and then spend three hours preparing said dinner (like me), then meal planning is the perfect solution.
As with anything I’m sure everyone has their specific way of doing things, but this is how I approach meal planning…
I typically do my meal plan on Friday for the following week (Sunday- Saturday) because this gives me the weekend to grocery shop and prep some food ahead of time. Also, I get my CSA basket on Thursday so I can take stock of what I’ve got for the week before I make my meal plan.
First, I check the fridge and pantry to see what I have leftover that needs to be used and I add that to the “ingredients to use” box on the template. I make sure to make recipes that include these ingredients early in the week to ensure they get used first before they go bad.
Then I’ll write in any plans we have where we will be eating out or won’t be able to cook so I know to prepare for that ahead of time.
Next, I peruse cookbooks, pinterest, blogs, my brain, etc to find a few solid recipes (usually 3-4) that I can make throughout the week that will produce leftovers for my husband’s lunches and use the ingredients I already have on hand.
Then, I find something I can make on Sunday that will feed me for lunch all week (typically a soup, salad or casserole).
Next comes breakfast. We usually just do something simple like hard boiled eggs, bacon or sausage, and some roasted veggies but every once in a while I’ll make something fancier like these Buffalo Chicken Egg Muffins or a breakfast casserole. So I’ll add that to the meal plan with a note to make this ahead of time on Sunday.
Last comes snacks. This is typically just leftovers from a recipe for the blog or some fruit.
Then it’s just a matter of writing out the grocery list.
And that’s all! This process used to take me an hour or longer but as with anything else, practice makes perfect (more like improvement than perfection but that saying doesn’t sound as catchy)! I can now complete a week’s worth of meal planning in 10-20 minutes depending on how fancy I want to get.
As for the template, I have used a lot of different resources to meal plan including a little magnetic notepad, my computer, and countless printable meal plan templates from the internet, but I could never find anything that fit my needs exactly. So I made my own! I’ve made a few edits to the template since I posted the photo on instagram to make it a little more vibrant-life-army-wife-esque but the basic format is the same. You can download the PDF of this template by clicking here: VLAW Meal Plan Template. Or just right click on the image above for the jpeg!
I hope this helps you on your journey to eat healthy and live vibrantly! If you have any additional tips that have helped with your meal planning process, or if you have any questions leave a comment below! I love hearing what you all have to say!
In vibrant health,