Best Way to Plan a Week Long Set of Meals

Plan a Week Long Set of Meals

Meal planning for a whole week at a time can be overwhelming, but with a little time, effort and energy put in on the front end, you might find it's a lot easier than you anticipated. There are a few things you can engrave into your routine to set yourself up for success when you're planning ahead.

Get Out the Calendar

The most important thing to do when you're shopping for food on a weekly basis is sit down with your calendar ahead of time. Before you ever make a list, make a note of your schedule. You might see that you have 3 nights where you'll be out for dinner, which leaves you with 4 nights to cook at home. How do you do lunches for your family? Will they be eating at school or work? How about breakfast? Once you have a tally of how many meals you'll be responsible for for the week, jot it down on your grocery list to be mindful of as you make your plans.

Set Your Budget, and Shop the Sales

You may be used to shopping on a budget, but if you're not, this is key in meal planning for bigger lumps of time. If the grocery store you go to has weekly specials, it's best to meal plan around what those specials are. For example, if you notice ground beef is on sale, go ahead and plan to buy a couple pounds rather than the ground turkey, which is not on sale. Shopping the sales will get you the most for your money, and will stretch your dollar much further.

Have Some Set Meals, and Then Be Flexible

Don't plan to whip up a fancy dinner where you're following cooking instructions more than once or twice per week. Making lists specifically for certain meals will run up your bill and most of the time, ingredients you purchase are good for one use before you forget about it in your cupboard. Rather, consider spending a large percentage of your budget on meat, a large percentage on produce, and little on other ingredients that you wouldn't use often. During the week, get creative with what you've purchased. Be flexible! You'd be surprised how many different things you can create without a detailed list of ingredients to account for.

Know Your Staples

If you cook regularly, you probably already know what your go-to ingredients are. What are the things you always have in your kitchen? What are the items that, no matter what you're making, you seem to always cook with? Chicken broth? Cumin? Olive oil? Keep a running list of these staples, and utilize them often. Plan your meals around them, since you always have them there.

Don't Be Afraid of Left Overs

If you're cooking 4 nights out of the week, go ahead and plan to make 2 different meals, knowing that you'll have some form of leftovers the night after each one. Get creative with your leftovers and don't feel like you have to have the same meal two nights in a row. Have a plan for the remainder of tonight's meal before you even cook it. Doing that will implement a much needed sense of portion control as well as eliminate any chance of variation from the schedule.

With a little pro-active effort and planning, meal planning for a week at a time can be simple, and can actually save you lots of time and money.