Late last year I was really struggling with my grocery budget and I was often getting to 5pm and realising that I hadn’t done anything about preparing dinner. Nothing thawed out, not much in the fridge – cue stress and then a boring slap up dinner. Which is fine sometimes, but it was happening too often and I felt like I was stuck cooking the same old things and I was craving some variety.
So in a push to make myself more organised and to save a bit of money, I started meal planning. I thought I’d share with you how I do it. My approach is pretty old school – no apps or electronic lists.
To start with I bought this weekly planner from a local office supplies store. Not only do I use it for meal planning but I write my whole week down on here. As the week continues, it fills up and I write daily to-do lists on it too. It looks very tidy in this picture because this photo was taken on the Sunday before the week started.
Before having kids, I had a mind like a steel trap. These days I am so forgetful – constantly interrupted, distracted and things slip from my mind like water. This weekly planner has helped a lot – it sits on my kitchen bench where I am forced to look at it several times a day! It doesn’t help all the time though – yesterday I emailed a dear friend back and forth several times, the whole time completely oblivious that it was her birthday and I hadn’t acknowledged it. Despite spending the whole morning thinking “Must ring Bec for her birthday! Must ring Bec for her birthday!” Hopeless. But not as bad as I used to be now that I’ve developed a few strategies for remembering things.
So to start with, I like to grab my planner and some food magazines and cook books then I flip through and choose my recipes for the week. Some more detailed than others and I always make room for old favourites.
I also write down the book/magazine and page reference so I can find that recipe easily on the day I cook it.
Once I’ve got a week’s worth of meals, I write a shopping list of all the things I need to buy, then do the grocery shopping accordingly. I don’t shop as impulsively as I did before, so it helps keep costs down and I’ve really been able to reign in the budget over the past few months.
So that is it! Simple, but that 15 minutes a week I spend planning saves me SO much stress.
You are probably wondering a few things. Like what if we decide to have take away one night? Easy – I just bump that night’s meal into the following week because I know I have all the ingredients ready to go. And what if I wake up and just don’t feel like that meal for that night? I just swap it with something else that week. I like to keep things flexible.
I have kept up the meal planning for a few months now, and the best things are:
- No stress at 5pm or if I’ve had a really busy day with the kids – in my mind dinner is sorted, I just have to cook it.
- I use my cook books and food magazines a lot more often. Current favourites are Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, Secrets of the Red Lantern and Recipes Plus mag (I bought a subscription). I also use some recipe sites like Kyrstie’s blog A Fresh Legacy and taste.com.au.
- It’s easier to stick to our budget ($250AU a week for ALL groceries, including food, toiletries and cleaning products, nappies, and extras including mid week cafe visits, kids activities, the occasional take away or dinner out)
So that is one of my attempts at being a Domestic Goddess. Ha! Do you meal plan? How do you do it?