We’re going to discuss a little topic today that I swear will save you money AND the internal stress of throwing away food: meal planning! Now, honestly speaking, I’m pretty new to this game, but now that I’m IN the game, I’m never looking back! If you’re like my former self (read: Seamless is your #1 internet site, the pizza delivery guy knows you by name, you spend a retarded amount of money eating out, and when you feel so guilty about eating out you start grocery shopping…only to realize 75% of the produce was being thrown out because it wasn’t being used in time…well.) Let’s talk.
Here’s my super simple guide to meal planning that can be used/modified for any New Yorker…whether you’re living alone, with roommates, with a significant other, or with a gaggle of kiddos. Wave goodbye to wasted money, time, and food, my friends!
This step is so, so important, guys. Do NOT plan on making 7 amazing home cooked meals throughout the week unless you know for a fact that you will actually be home to cook and eat them. Living in New York, most of us have things already lined up on the calendar: work dinners, dinners with friends, book club meetings, date nights, etc. So every Sunday night, take a look at your calendar and make note of how many nights you (and whoever you are cooking for) will be dining at home. My average usually lurks around 4. Once you have your number, you are ready to shop.
2. Pick your meals.
Ok, now that we’ve established we’ll be home (let’s say 4) nights during the week, it’s time to go through all those cookbooks and online recipes we have stored. In an IDEAL world, you’ll already have a collection of go-to meals that you have mastered and can whip up blindfolded, but this is New York and nothing is ideal. So…get creative! Choose something that looks delicious, but also a few that are relatively simple…keeping the frustration and time levels to a low is essential here. Oh! And also, the less off-beat ingredients/spices used, the better for your wallet. Unless you know you will be able to use it up before it goes bad, that is. (I can count on one hand how much use I’ve gotten from “fresh nutmeg”…so yeah. Keep it simple.)
3. List your ingredients and go shopping.
This was always my least favorite part of the meal planning, until I became a FreshDirect convert. Now, I just use the app to grocery shop on the go (and often times I’m repeating a lot of the same meals, so it’s quick and easy to simply duplicate my prior cart), and voila! The food is delivered to my doorstep next day! If you’re not a FD convert, give it a try here…you get up to $100 off your first 2 orders! Or…head to your nearest grocery store and get to shopping! Just remember: nothing is allowed in the cart that is not on your list.
And a side note: there’s a plethora of meal planning templates out there (just go on Pinterest!), but I am an advocate for keeping everything in one place–less paper, less clutter, less for you to possibly lose. I use my hard copy pink planner to track my entire life, meal planning included, but use what works for you. If you keep everything stored in your phone, that’s probably the best place to meal plan, too!
4. “Ok, so I got dinner down. What about breakfast and lunch?”, you ask.
So glad you asked. For breakfast I keep a few staple things in the fridge that are on heavy rotation: a box of cereal, greek yogurt, string cheese, and the ingredients to whip up something fancier for the weekends (eggs, pancakes, and crepes.) For lunch: dinner leftovers, my friends! Again, this will depend on how many people you are cooking for, but with just the hubs and I, my dinner portion size is typically for 4 people, so there’s plenty leftover for lunch the next day.
And there you have it! In 4 simple steps, you’ve saved so much money on eating out, ordering in, and wasted groceries that will end up in the trash. You’ve saved food. You’ve saved yourself time from having to do a fridge cleaning overhaul every few weeks cause, get this: if you meal plan correctly and stick to the plan, your fridge should ideally be EMPTY by the following Monday…just in time for your next batch of groceries!
Would love to know…have you tried meal planning? What are your successes and struggles? Share below!
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