Meal planning is exactly as it sounds – it’s planning your meals in advance. Meal planning has so many advantages and will save you both time and money as as well as altering your eating habits. When you focus on what you’re eating, you will have more control over your diet.1
Each person’s eating situations can vary from week to week depending on work schedule, school activities, evening commitments, and travel plans. The first step to meal planning is to determine how many meals you need to plan for each day and each week. When you have time to prepare meals, it is a good idea to make what we refer to as “planned overs.” This means making meals that can be served more than once. This idea works great for times when you have to eat and run or come home dog tired and ready to eat whatever your can grab. As you prepare your meal plan, keep in mind those fruits and vegetables that are currently in season.2
Meal planning lays the ground work for savings. If you plan well, you are likely to spend less time grocery shopping and save money. Shopping with a specific list in mind means you will cook what you buy. The meal plan image on this page can be downloaded and used as a template. (Thanks, ThisMommyCooksDinner.com) Each week include meals that you’ve made before as well as trying new recipes. If you use recipes that you know are well received in your family there is less likelihood that you will get ingredients that just sit forever in your pantry. Be sure to plan meals around items you already have. 40% of food bought spoils while sitting in the refrigerator. If you have food storage, be sure to inventory what you have and use the oldest items first. If you build your meal plans around what you already have, you will have less to buy at the grocery store. Pay attention to how much of an item you’ll need for a recipe and pick another recipe for the next day that might include the remainder of those ingredients. Use an app to store all your recipes. The Cookin‘ software that comes with a Sun Oven® purchase can do just that. When you make your meal plan with those recipes, you can easily generate a grocery list.
Plan for leftovers. Having an additional meal from the same amount of fuel energy expended to produce the first one is a savings in time and energy. If you don’t want to eat the same meal twice right away, freeze the second part for later. Post your weekly menu where all the family can see it. Not only will you become accountable for preparing them, other family members can pitch in to help get things going.3
Plan your meals a week at a time, ending on your regular shopping day. Keep the meal plans you make either in a notebook or in your computer. This way you will be able to refer back to them, select menus that were successful and mix and match different meals for different days.
Billie Nicholson, Editor