Prior to marriage meal planning was not something I did. As a single woman I was always on the move, cooking was not a priority, and eating out was a norm. I spent the first eight months of my married life in Africa. Our beginnings were humble, considering that I did most of my cooking with a kettle, there was not a lot of need for planning elaborate meals. We ate ALOT of spaghetti! As soon as we reached the states eating out for two on a regular basis was not a reasonable option for our diet or our budget. For the first time in my life I experienced the daunting dinner dilemma. The aching feeling of the sun beginning to set, stomachs beginning to growl, and family members beginning to open and close the refrigerator and pantry in search of some grub.
The first step for me was finding credible resources for recipes which we’ll discuss later in this post. Once I started feeding my creative nature through serving delicious delights, I realized it was necessary to have a plan that charted what I was cooking and allowed me to stock the ingredients in advance.
What are the five steps to meal planning?
Step One: Find a Recipe
The first step in my process is finding a recipe. Pinterest is a go-to for me. I also LOVE Natasha’s Kitchen. The log is well organized into categories that make it very easy to navigate to the meal type I’m looking for and select an idea.
Step Two: Build a Meal Plan
I build my meal plans by dividing the paper or document I’m using in to three sections: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. I typically choose five or six options for each section because I count on having leftovers or using the ingredients to make impromptu breakfast dishes to keep it flexible.
On the same paper or document I also write down the ingredients each recipe requires. I avoid writing down repeats because most recipes call for similar ingredients. This step builds the grocery list that I use for steps three and four.
Tip: I intentionally select meal options that have the same ingredients so that I can stay within budget.
Step Three: Shop the Pantry
Before heading to the grocery store I check the pantry, cabinets, and fridge for ingredients needed to make the recipes I selected. This saves time and money.
We will cover How to Build a Pantry at another time.
Step Four: Shop the Store
I head to the grocery store for any items on my list. The main thing I aim to pay attention to during this step is staying within budget. Sometimes I tweak my selections if I know I can get the same results without overspending.
Step Five: Cook the Meal
I typically prepare my meals in “real-time” meaning I don’t cook for the week or several days at one time. This is one of the reasons leftovers or having impromptu options available is important to me because I often need the option to not cook for the evening or to cook something less time consuming than initially planned.