The whole world of meal planning, grocery shopping and food budgeting can all seem scary and overwhelming. I GET IT! I was there, weekly. And having gone on my own journey, one of my main goals with this site is to help take some of the pressure off and show just how simple it can actually be with the right planning and tools. I covered it all on an Instagram Live that you can now find on our Facebook page !
So you can head over and watch the replay, and below are the notes from the video too.
KNOW YOUR CONSTRAINTS
You can only work with what you have to work with. So know your boundaries and limitations are you plan. Ask yourself some questions to figure out what your general constraints are.
- What kind of budget are you working with?
- How often do you want to make a trip to the store; once a month, once a week?
- What day of the week works best for you?
- What stores/online resources are available to you?
- How much fridge/panty space do you have?
- How often and how much do you have time to food prep?
- What meals do you want to make at home?
THEN START TO BUILD YOUR MEAL PLAN
Choose a meal plan guide (you can get 4 sample ones if you’re on our newsletter list – hit the link HERE to join and get them all!) or just scribble on a piece of paper but a proper set of boxes to fill in is easiest to start and build a habit. Ask yourself some questions again as you fill it in:
- Are there any special occasions you’ll be planning around, such as having people over, date night or office catered lunches?
- What do you already have in your pantry/fridge that needs using up and how can you work that in to your meals that week?
- Is there anything in particular that you’re craving and would like to incorporate into your plans?
- How much time do you have to prep for each meal?
- How expensive are the meals you’re adding in? *Tip: Balance expensive meals with cheaper meals. If you’re buying meat and cheese for one meal, plan for the next meal to be made with more simple ingredients; veggies, oats, rice, etc.
If you’re having a hard time thinking of what to make, check the Master meals list. You can refer to mine, but I would suggest that you come up with your own that’s unique to you and your family. Make sure you leave room in all your planning for leftovers – I always leave 1-2 meals blank for that. Using them will help avoid unnecessary waste and ultimately keep you from dumping your food budget in the bin. It’s a good idea to reassess the fridge mid week to see where you’re at, make sure you don’t forget about anything and really get a feel of how much food you need to make next; if any!
WRITE YOUR LIST
When writing your grocery list, start at the cupboard and refrigerator. What do you need to restock? Then read over your meal plan and fill in the rest of your list according to what you don’t have. Double check the meal plant to make sure you have everything.
HIT THE STORE!
Before you head out, make sure to grab your meal plan paper (to refer back to, in case you forget why you wrote down THAT many tomatoes) shopping bags, Reusable cotton produce bags and glass jars to avoid buying packaging that will just be thrown away. Try and buy as many things on your list from the bulk section to avoid waste AND to save money – bulk is always cheaper!
*Tip: write the bulk item number on your grocery list instead of using the stickers from the store.
Try to stick to only buying whats on the list, but if something you would normally pick up is on sale, go ahead and stock up. Also leave yourself some room to change your mind when you get there, as far as which version/variety/brand to buy, based on what’s on sale or is just a cheaper option; go ahead and switch it up. If plastic packaging is a must, look for the recycle symbol, and if you need to buy something in a can, make sure its labeled BPA free!
Some people find it helpful to wash and chop all their veggies before they go into the fridge although I just put them away as is. I do transfer everything from my produce bags to class jars for storage.
And then midweek I reassess the food situation! Is there something that needs to be used up before the meal plan says it will be? Use it up earlier and switch a meal around! Or if you have something you’re just not going to end up using, freeze it, or cook them freeze it for the next week.
For a sample week of shopping with my grocery staples see the blog post HERE
For more zero waste essentials along with the cotton produce bags see HERE
For ways to get my favorite items online through Amazon with all the links to what I love see the post HERE.