Meal planning is one of the most important things that we do at our house. We are both full time employees who have a one year old and a three year old puppy. We also serve in multiple areas and are out most nights of the week. Needless to say, we are busy people. We’re working really hard at slowing down and have done much better. Most of our weeks have a specific schedule other than weekends. We like to keep those as free as possible in case we want to hang out at the house, go hiking, or visit family. Since we have a pretty standard routine, it makes it’s pretty easy to meal plan. I wanted to break down how I do meal planning and hope it helps you in the process.
We do our BIG grocery shopping once a month. I use to go twice but I just can’t stand to go do serious grocery shopping more than once a month or budget in extra for impulsive buys. I make my list throughout the entire month of what we “need” and then focus on sales the last week of the month and the first week of the month. Since I usually know Saturday or earlier what the sales will be for the following week, I am able to compare weeks and decide which sales I want to shop and usually do a little bit of both if the sales are good for both weeks. Based on what is on sale, I plan our meals. Vegetables and fruits are seasonal so you have to watch what you buy and try to meal plan around that.
We try to buy locally. This doesn’t always work for us but the point is we TRY. We buy our eggs from NLV Farms and really love them. Seriously, they have the best eggs ever and they’re farm fresh and free range. All things I look for in buying eggs. Emma loves them, too. Leslie is always ready and willing to meet us to trade eggs and money. She texts me when she’s headed to Abingdon to make sure I don’t need eggs. Now I don’t know about you, but Walmart has never called me to see if I want ANYTHING. Thanks Leslie, you rock and so do your eggs.We also try to visit the local Farmer’s Market. There’s nothing like a fresh cup of coffee in hand while we go around and check out all the local produce. It’s just relaxing and feels like how life should be.
I recommend buying in bulk. We visit King’s Produce regularly in Wytheville, Virginia. We have been making that drive for all 27 years of my life and never knew that place existed until about two years ago. Now, we’re hooked. Thanks Stacy! We get a lot of our bulk items there and it’s CHEAP. And by cheap, I mean affordable not low quality. All of our flour, oats, spices, carob, sucanat, and several other supplies come from there. They are super affordable. We have toyed with buying beans and then cooking them rather than buying them canned and this has worked out great for us. On our next trip to Kings, I will start buying my beans in bulk there and storing them in mason jars. It makes them so pretty, plus it’s good storage. You can also choose to join a local co op if you plan on buying in bulk. I think most co op’s you have to buy $50 worth each time, but if you’re buying in bulk, that’s not too bad. There’s a lot to choose from if you’re a part of one.
Remember to use what you have. There are times that I look in our fridge and pantry and there is NOTHING to eat. Well, nothing I WANT to eat. That’s the difference. If we’re on a tight budget, we can’t afford to go out to eat every time I’m not in the mood for what I have. I try to keep some of our staple items in the house at all times. For example, we love anything we ground meat so I try to keep browned venison the freezer. We love these on habanera limes wraps from Trader Joe’s so I keep those in the freezer, too. We are also big fans of tuna steaks. If I keep some of these items readily available, it keeps us from running to the store when we don’t have anything to eat. These we enjoy eating anytime, which helps us get through the leftover pasta sauce that’s not my favorite.
I use these things to help in preparing my meal plans. If I have all these things in order in my life, I am better able to meal plan. Does it mean we always stick with it? No way. There are sometimes that we DO go out to eat. There are some times that we’re beyond exhausted and don’t feel like lifted a hand, even to stick something that’s already prepared in the oven. But the majority of the time, with planning in advance, we’re able to do it. It’s a lot easier to make cowboy beans when I know everything is already made, I just have to throw it in the crockpot. It’s easier coming home from a busy day at work knowing I have pressed patties in the freezer to throw on the grill. My favorite is when we have leftovers from a previous meal. With only two people eating the majority of the meal, we still have leftovers after most any meal. Meal planning can save budgets and I highly recommend looking into it if you don’t do it already. Below are a few sites I would recommend for looking into meal planning:
http://www.plantoeat.com/- Offers software to help you meal plan
http://www.southernsavers.com- Offers information about sales at stores in the southeast. It also gives you the coupons to match and make some great deals!
http://www.stacymakescents.com- visit her link “life in the kitchen” to look at previous meals plans that include links to recipes. Stacy also offers some GREAT recipes regularly on her blog that are CLEAN eating friendly.
http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/category/realfoodrecipes- Erin offers a lot of great recipes that are clean eating friendly, too. I love Erin’s recipes and she has recipes for people with food allergies. Yes, I love this.
What do you recommend when it comes to meal planning? Do you meal plan with your family?