Tips & Recipes for Making a Great Meal Plan
Full disclosure, I didn’t start making a meal plan until a few months ago. I had seen my parents and friends do it for years, but for some reason I didn’t start doing it until recently. But you know what? It’s changed the way we eat and grocery shop. Oh, and it saves us a ton of money.
Not intrigued yet?
Well let me give you a few more reasons why you’ll benefit from making a meal plan:
- You can try new things! For years, I pinned all these delicious looking foods to my different boards, but essentially forgot about them once I moved on to the next pin. Now, I categorized my boards into different types of food, and I actually look through them when I’m making my meal plan. That means I get to try all different types of cuisine, plus find new favourite recipes. Plus, the blogger that I pinned them from benefits from my traffic and feedback! Maybe I find a favourite, or my next party recipe or a new macaron flavour. The possibilities are endless, and delicious.
- You will save time in the grocery store. I include my grocery list with my meal plan, so when I’m checking out the recipes, I can jot down the ingredients that I don’t have in the same spot. Then, once I have my plan set, I organize my list in the order that it is in the store. I know, OCD, right? But it saves a ton of time, and also ensures that we don’t forget everything because we move through the store in a logical order.
- You will save money. There are a couple ways that I have saved money from meal planning, and hopefully you can benefit from most of them too. By planning out our meals, we spend less time wandering the grocery store and are also less likely to make impulse purchases. Also, when I’m making my meal plan, I always check the flyer first for whats on sale and I plan around that to make sure that we are getting good deals. This is especially important when buying meat. By planning out our meals, I can decide to make things that yield larger batches, which can then be taken for lunch the next day. Planning out our groceries and doing everything in one trip cuts down on having to run to the store because you forgot something. The less time you spend in the store, the less likely you are to pick up that pint of Haagen Dazs that’s on sale. You can also try grouping meals that have certain ingredients together - such as cilantro. It comes in a huge bunch, and I can never seem to get through it without 3/4 of it decomposing to a green sludge inside the bag. To combat this, try picking cuisines that feature similar ingredients. Mexican and Thai would work for cilantro! If you use your ingredients to the fullest, you’ll save money by not having to throw them in the green bin.
- It’s easier to balance your diet and keep track of what you eat. For Nick and I, I’ve tried to get us on a bit of healthier path with what we eat, so making a meal plan has made that a lot easier. Nowadays, we only have meat for dinner every other day. The rest of our meals are vegetarian, and sometimes even vegan!
- It’s less stressful. Making a meal plan takes out the stress of deciding what to make for dinner every night. You know you have a plan in place, so all you have to do is go home and execute that plan. Your meal plan can also help you when deciding on meals for busy nights of the week. Maybe you have to be somewhere by 7pm one night, so you don’t have time to make something after work. Plan on doing a meal in the crock pot so that there is minimal prep in the morning, and then it’s ready when you get home. Alternately, prep things that you need for dinner on the weekend, so you don’t have to spend as much time during the week when you get home from work and are already starving. Also, if you know that you won’t be home one night, but your significant other will, plan a meal the night before that you know will have leftovers, so that they’re not left with nothing to eat. For me, I also like to be very organized, so making a meal plan really makes me feel like I’ve got my shit together.
I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you’re convinced that making a meal plan is amazing and will change your life 😉
I know it seems fairly straightforward, but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good system down for making my meal plan. This is how I do it to make sure that we eat amazing tasting food that’s in our budget:
How-to Make a Kick Ass Meal Plan
- Spend Sunday - Thursday pinning foods that look interesting to you and read through the recipes briefly. I use Pinterest exclusively because it has pretty much all the recipes I want in one place, and I can also access it from anywhere, so it’s super convenient. I usually make my meal plan on Friday (this is the day flyers come out) so I’ve spent the week pinning recipes that look delicious. I think Pinterest in a great resource for this because you can organize as many board as you want into different types of cuisines, and it also has all of your recipes in one place. Easy peasy. For some inspiration, check out my very organized Pinterest here.
- Start drafting your meal plan. I usually do this on a draft email to myself so that I can access it at work and home. I type out each day of the week starting with Sunday (the day we grocery shop) and ending with Saturday. Add a section titled “Groceries” to the end. Keep these things in mind:
- When I make my meal plan, I usually do a larger, more time consuming meals on Saturday and Sunday (because I have the day to prepare it if need be) and then faster meals during the week. I also like to make something big on Sunday so that I can take it to work Monday / Tuesday.
- Plan your days based on dietary needs. For example, I try to have 4 days meat free and 3 days with meat. Every other day is a meat free dinner.
- Keep in mind any engagements or activities that you have on certain nights of the week so you can plan who will cook. I have a standing engagement on Thursdays (I participate in an Engery Exchange at a Yoga studio for free yoga!) so I won’t get home until about 8pm. This means that dinner needs to be something that Nick likes to cook, or something that can be prepared super fast when I get home. Or leftovers.
- As I’m drafting my meal plan I’ll decide on a recipe and read through it and then make notes in my grocery section of anything that we need to buy. If there is an ingredient that we won’t use all of for one dish, I’ll try and find something in the same week or next that it can be used for as well.
- Once you’ve settled on your 7 dishes, see if they all make sense on the day that you planned them, and if not, move them around.
- I usually go through each recipe twice to make sure that I got all of the ingredients that we need.
- Lastly, I go through the grocery list and put it in the order that we walk through the store. I know this sounds super OCD, but it ensures that we never forget anything! It also makes for a super speedy trip.
I know it seems like a lot of work, but it’s actually really fun and is something that I look forward to putting together. Nick and I have been able to try so many different and new things, which we both love. I genuinely look forward to seeing his face when he finds out that he loves something he’s never tried before.
This is an example of what my meal plan for the coming week looks like:
Here are my top 5 favourite dishes that I’ve made since I started meal planning:
- Mongolian Beef
Deliciously crispy beef gets covered in a sweet and sticky sauce. Pour it over rice and enjoy the amazing flavours!
Get the recipe here!
- Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto
I usually make this on Sunday because it take a bit of time, but its well worth it and is amazing comfort food!
Check out my recipe here
- Coconut Sweet Potato Curry
This recipe is so so good and is actually vegan! It also makes a large amount, so expect to be able to take leftovers for lunch!
Find the recipe here
- Pizza with Prosciutto, Fig Goat Cheese & Arugula
This is one of my favourite pizza’s that I’ve ever ate! It has the perfect combination of toppings and comes together super quick.
Find my recipe here
- Pesto Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
This pasta is packed with vegetables, but is still one of the best comfort foods out there. As a bonus, I added ricotta cheese to my pasta as well for a more creamy sauce.
Find the recipe here
So, there you have it - my tips and recipes for creating an amazing meal plan. I hope you adopt this into your life soon to help you save money and time, and start trying a bunch of new delicious foods!
I would love to hear about any of your favourite recipes that you like to include in your meal plan!