An Introduction into Meal Planning September 17 2016, 0 Comments

Meal planning. It's a very regular topic of conversation with friends. Meal planning seems confusing and mysterious at first but I assure you, it is a weeknight game changer! I have found a pretty simple routine for us and wanted to share it with you guys.

I didn't always like meal planning. Actually, for the first 5 years after I graduated college I would wonder up and down the grocery store aisles putting random food items in my cart. This was bad for two reasons. It was bad for my budget because I was putting whatever in my cart and the other reason it was bad is because I would get home and realize I didn't actually purchase anything to create a meal (whoops!), that was definitely a lack of planning on my part!

Through trial and error, I have learned to like meal planning. Meal planning is great for four reasons (and many more, I am sure)
1. Meal planning helps us not eat out as much because we always have a go-to meal planned and ingredients on hand.
2. Meal planning helps us intentionally eat healthier because I am in control of what we eat each week (sorry husband).
3. Meal planning also helps me spend less money at the store because I have a list and only put stuff in my cart that is on my list (that means no more cookies and cream pop tart impulse buys...)
4. We are BUSY and I know you are too. By taking 30 minutes to plan meals for the week, it keeps our evenings simple, organized and we never ever have that 5pm "omg whats for dinner?!?!?" freak out moment, I know you've been there too. 

So let's dig into the details of meal planning!
1. First and foremost, set a weekly grocery budget. It might take a couple weeks of trial and error to nail down an exact weekly amount. If you tend to go a little spending crazy at the store, I recommend giving Dave Ramsey's Envelope System a try.
2. Gather the troops (and by troops I mean all your best recipes): Figure out some meals that your family enjoys eating. Surely you've got a stash somewhere, if not, thank goodness for Pinterest! I pin recipes like crazy to a board that I creatively named Food. When we find a great recipe, I immediately move the pinned recipe over to another board called Recipes We've Tried and Like. This board is a great resource when I am not feeling particularly adventurous with meals for the week. 
3. The easiest way I have figured out how to organize myself is to create a menu to pin up on the fridge for all to see. From this menu, I make my grocery list. At the bottom of this post is a meal planning sheet + grocery list printable! Print it, fill in the information and pin it up on the fridge and cut off the grocery list! Easy Peasy!
Tip: I meal plan for Sunday dinner-Sunday lunch of the next week. I typically grocery shop Sunday afternoons so my meal planning covers me for every single meal throughout the week.
Another Tip: Sometimes we'll eat out on a whim leaving a meal that wasn't used during the week, we automatically roll that meal over to the next week. That means we have one less meal to plan and shop for and the food won't be just sitting in our pantry forever (hashtag thumbs up!)

Download my cute, colorful and FREE meal planning printable.

Be sure to comment with any questions on the blog or instagram @taylorelliottdesigns.