Pink tulips wrapped in brown paper

Breaking Down Meal Planning

Hello and welcome back!

Back in August, I shared 9 Helpful Ways to Save on Home Cooking and Eating. I briefly touched on the subject and how it important it is. Not only does it save money, but also time, energy, and unwanted stress. With a little bit of time spent ahead, meal planning can be easy.

Speaking figuratively, smooth sailing takes a lot of planning. I don’t know how actual sailing works, but for the sake of the metaphor, we’re going to go with it. So, in this post I wanted to elaborate a little bit more on the subject.

As a homemaker, I am in charge of planning our menu. It became less of a chore when I realized that the better I plan, the easier it is going to be. And this brings me to my first point:

Expect to Spend Time on Meal Planning

I am going to repeat myself here – the better you plan, the easier your life will be. Set aside time for planning, even if you only have a few minutes to spare. Don’t do it when you’re at the store or even on your way to the store. You need to be sure of what you have in your fridge and in your pantry so you don’t end up wasting food or having to go back to the store.

Pull out your cookbooks, magazines, open your favorite blogs & Pinterest, and start taking notes!

Rolled out pizza dough, pizza sauce and cheese and meat toppings

Create a Routine or a Process

Menu

That might sound complicated, but I am simply referring to the good old notebook. Or, the Notes app on your phone if you prefer typing over writing. I have been using separate notebooks to plan our weekly menus since 2017. I love flipping through them to see what we ate and special occasions celebrated at our dinner table.

Shopping List

Find a way to keep track of your grocery list, whether it’s a notebook in the kitchen or an app on your phone. My husband and I use a shared folder in the Reminders app. As soon as one of us says “we need…”, we add it to the list. Don’t expect yourself to remember everything. Not to brag, but even though I have a great memory, I write down everything. And you should too, because life is distracting enough as it is.

Use Calendar and Forecast in Your Meal Planning

I have learned the hard way that I need to check our calendar before meal planning. I’ve planned elaborate date nights in only to find out (after I’ve gotten groceries!) that we have some kind of obligation that day. It helps to know if you are going to have a crazy busy Tuesday – probably not the best time to plan for a 3 course meal with all new recipes. Whether it’s a busy day, or a social obligation, or trip out of town the next day – include it in your planning.

Checking the forecast may seem like a strange item on this list, but it can be so useful. Grilling in the rain is never fun and neither is a stew on an unexpectedly hot day. Especially in between seasons when the weather can be unpredictable.

Two bowls with vegetables, meat and cheese on Christmas placemat and two forks

Identify The Most Functional Length of Time to Plan for

This will vary greatly for everyone. I’ve seen people plan as far as a month ahead of time – mainly big families or very busy couples. On the other hand, we all know about a very European approach – to buy enough just for one day. Depending on where you live and what your daily schedule is like, it can be either one of those or anything in between. Our ideal time is 3-4 days max. And day #4 usually turns out to be a leftover day (see next point).

In the past, I’ve tried to plan it for 1 week ahead of time which led to a lot of waste. Since it’s only two of us, we ended up with a lot of leftovers that just don’t get eaten. Then, I tried to plan it one meal at a time and that was the most time consuming, of course.

This sort of takes me to my first point – expect to spend time figuring it out. In time, you will find what works best for you, your family, and your budget.

Account for Leftover Day

This one is the most fun, I think! Unless you have a big family, you are probably going to end up with odds and ends. Instead of letting them go to waste, consider putting them together in a dish – these usually turn out to be my most favorite dinners. Being creative in the kitchen is easier than it seems, and it really is fun. Don’t be afraid to experiment or go off the beaten path. All you have is eggs and milk? You can make an omelette – who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?

If that seems too challenging to you, there are free websites and apps such as supercook.com and myfridgefood.com to help you!

Various taco bowls toppings: lettuce, avocado, vegetables, lime, bell peppers

Always check your fridge/freezer/pantry staples.

Chances are, you have at least one dish you are comfortable making regardless of what life has thrown at you. Whether it’s a grilled cheese, or a comforting soup recipe, always keep the ingredients on hand to whip it up. It’s always better to treat yourself to your favorite food made at home than to throw in the towel and have fast food.

And, to wrap it up – Have a back up plan 🙂

Life gets crazy. Whatever you do, wherever you are, we can all have unpredictability, stress, illness, and everything in between. When that happens and cooking is literally the last thing you can fathom – have a back up plan. As much as I love, love, LOVE to cook – I’ve been there!

There were two words I used to describe my blog when working with logo designers – warmth and encouragement. This is about elevating your life, nourishing yourself and others, and doing what’s best for you. Sometimes, what’s best is to pick up take out Chick-fil-A and put pajamas on really early. We all have our hard days. But we can still be ahead of the game by knowing what our no-cook days can look like.

Maybe you have a favorite casual take out spot, maybe your closest grocery store has a delicious roasted chicken… Or maybe it’s a bag of tortilla chips and store bought guacamole. Have a list of options on hand for emergencies.


And there you have it! I hope you found it helpful. How do you tackle meal planning? Let me know in the comment section. If you have any questions or feedback on this or any of my other recipes, you can find me on Instagram (@babushkacooking), Facebook (Babushka Cooking), or e-mail me at yana@babushkacooking.com

From Kitchen, with Love – 

Yana

Disclaimer

Babushka Cooking does not receive any kind of compensation for the products, services, or places recommended.

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