Planning Meal Preparation (Meal Plan to Save Time & Money)
The most important part of any meal preparation is the meal plan itself. This is where you design your meals for the week, get a list together and hunt down those recipes you have been wanting to try.
This part really takes some careful thought though. You do not want to be in the middle of the week craving Chinese and not have prepared something with those flavors. You need to make sure the you can plan to make multiple meals in a cost efficient manner. Lets go over that below.
Meal Planning can save money!
One of the first things we do every week before we plan our meals is go through the weekly ads for the local grocery stores that we frequent. The most important part of this is to make it easy as well as efficient, so picking a place to shop that you now the layout of is helpful.
So we go through the weekly ads and look at our protein sources. If chicken is on sale we will plan meals that use chicken, the same with beef. You really want to shop what is on sale, in a few weeks when your tired of the chicken meals that were on sale you can reach in your freezer and get some of that stew you cooked up!
Another important factor is buying prepared vs whole. You save a ton of money when you do the prep work yourself. I often will buy the largest bags of vegetables to prepare every week. There are a few vegetables like corn and peas that I suggest buying frozen though.
When you buy a container of sliced carrots you get 4-5 carrot sticks for the same price as a 5lb bag! By doing all of our prep work we are able to get our meals under $5 each! Also this gives you a chance to practice those fancy knife skills you see on all the cooking channels!
Planning Meal Preparation is the key to making this feel more than just “saving time” and more of a whole life improvement.
Conquer your usual cravings when you meal plan.
One of our worst fears when we started meal prepping was those sudden cravings you get for take-out or its Tuesday and all of a sudden you really just need a taco! Well instead of worrying about that we decided we could plan to cook a variety of meals that use the same ingredients but are flavored in a way that matches the cuisine we might want.
Every week we make a southwestern meal, and Asian inspired dish, something healthy and the last changes between different cuisines or spur of the moment ideas. That way we have the meals that we often tend to want when we want them and can reduce the need to go out and purchase a meal. Also when we do get to go out, we enjoy new places instead of the same old because we don’t do it that often.
So make a small list of your usual go to meals and their flavor profiles and hunt down the recipes that fit that profile!
Finding the right recipes, the hard part of planning meal preparation.
Now about finding those perfect recipes! Its time to hit Pinterest or the family cookbook or check out some of my recipes (You would have thought I was crazy if I didn’t mention my recipes atleast once!).
You want to make sure that you are finding recipes that have good reviews, are made by sites and/or people you trust. The last thing you want is to work hard on a meal and it suck at the end. I have been there and trust me…it sucks all week long..
So make sure you are picking quality recipes!
Important! You want to try and plan to use a large amount of your vegetables. So I would always suggest make sure that the main dishes you pick have ingredients you can use multiple ways. Like potatoes can go in a stew, be baked, fried, mashes. You just want to be mindful that the ingredients you are purchasing are all going to use or you aren’t saving that money!
Another quick point is please do not overcomplicate your sides. This is one of the biggest mistakes we have made. No one cares about the side as long as it does not suck. Most of the time we take our left over potatoes and broccoli, season and bake it and use it as side veggies.
Lists are the key to successfully meal planning!
Now once you have found your recipes you need to make a few lists. This will allow you to shop and work in an effective manner.
The first list is rather easy. You want to compile the ingredients from all of your recipes on a list. Your goal here is to know how many of each ingredient you need. So if a single recipe calls for 3 carrots and another calls for 2. Your list should be 5 carrots, do this until all your recipe ingredients are on this list.
Next! Take that list and you want to list those ingredients based on the layout of your grocery story. You do not want to have to walk in circles when shopping and we have found that making our list by isle has been the most efficient way of shopping, especially in a busy part of Houston!
After you have those lists you want to look at the steps involved in making your dishes and make a quick list of the steps you need to take to prepare those meals based on the time they take to complete.
You are now ready to follow those lists and be successful at planning meal preparation!