Food Planning eliminates a lot of stress for most people. It's just most people aren't taking advantage of it because they believe it's truly 'more' on their plate to do food planning. (Pro Insight: planning ahead is essential to saving time.) Most people believe they won't remember to do food planning for the week, so again this is about prioritizing. If you miss a week, just get back on the wagon right after and plan for the one after. This is not the same as a meal plan, however, because Food Planning is when you list out what meals you'll make for the week. This is completely different from following a meal plan you receive from someone else and have the stress of creating new recipes with new-to-you ingredients. You create this meal plan before you shop so that you know exactly what you need to buy in order to make the meals. This saves you time and money as you aren't wandering the grocery store guessing as you go.
You ask "How does it save me time?"
Because you won't be stressing every day about 'what's for dinner' tonight and rushing to the grocery store every day, it'll save you a headache. You'll already have a plan and won't even have to think twice about it.
You can do food planning however it works best for your family.
Some people do daily theme nights (ie. Meatless Monday, Tuesday Soup, Wednesday Casserole, Thursday Pasta, etc)
Some people do weekend planning for the week
Some people follow meal plans seasonally, some people like to improvise based on their families' favourites
Some people have wall charts, some people have fridge white-boards.
Some people do 3/4 days ahead planning - Sunday plan for M-W, Thursday plan for T-S.
How does it save me money?
With planning of meals you won't waste as much food as you'll be eating what you buy. Think about all the times you've thrown out food from the back of your fridge. If those meals had been planned they wouldn't be garbage! Commit to eating your food before it goes bad.
Secondly, figuring out how much food you need to buy in order to make it through until your next grocery trip translates into you ordering emergency takeout much less often! (Those $14 lunches really add up!)
Saving money on food means you have more room in your budget for healthier, organic foods like whole yogurt, fresh produce or for a treat: special cheeses.
Here are my amazing tools for your own single or family food planning:
- Create your food plan but don’t be intimidated. Just give it a try and see how it feels for you. If it feels right and does help you, keep going! You can always allow freedom and change and balance and edit it as you see fit.
- Utilize similar ingredients for the week. Meaning, don’t buy a bag a 10 lb bag of potatoes and then only use them once in the week. Cook them all up and use leftovers for breakfasts, snacks, etc. In this way you are putting your food to work—and therefore save money! (This just keeps getting better, doesn't it!)
- Give yourself freedom + options so you don't feel trapped. When you prepare your food plan, tell yourself, “This week, I will eat either a sandwich or a soup for lunch.” Then, you won’t feel locked down to any specific entree.
- Pick a day of the week you have some free time, and skip the Netflix for a couple hours. You can prep for the entire week on one day, (Sunday?) which is amazing for those who work outside the house or who are just really busy (aren’t we all?!!)
- Re-heat the easiest meals on your busiest days so you can open the fridge or freezer and find super quick easy meals (like a pre-made and re-heated casserole or a soup?) that are DOABLE for those schedules-packed week nights.
- Don't used "I'm tired" as an excuse ever again! Pack your planned lunches the night before, so you can’t be “too tired” in the mornings.
Easy ways to make meal planning easier + faster:
- Skip the homemade tomato sauce and stock up on organic brands when they go on sale
- Buy pre-washed bagged lettuce
- Buy bulk foods and make 3 or 4 batches of your favourite recipe to store for future eating (freezers can be used storing real-food meals, not for freezer-burned fish n' chips)
- Use store bought salad dressings (okay this is the only one I really, truly approve of) if you don't want to make time to whip up your own
- Buy bags of pre-shredded cheese instead of grating your own
- Summer time - if you aren't a farmers' market-goer, purchasing fruit trays from the grocery store is an ideal way to have ready-to-eat healthy snacks just a fridge-door-open away
- Summer time - stocking up on fresh fruit and freezing it each week leaves you with a nice lot of frozen fruit for the fall, ready to go for smoothie additions
- Don't bother peeling all your vegetables (that's where a lot of the nutrients lie, anyway!)
You can do this
Don’t get discouraged if you thought a chili or casserole that would last all week gets eaten in two days and you’re stuck grabbing subs or ordering takeout again! The more you learn about your household’s eating habits, the better you’ll be able to shape your food plans and prepare for a refrigerator stocked with food you need.
Now pat yourself on the back for taking the time to do this! You are ahead of the game each day you choose to be organized and plan. I never like people to feel tightly bound to any rule (although, Type A's may enjoy this security) so allow yourself the freedom to investigate, experiment and play with meal planning until you find a simple rhythm that really works for you.
Whole, real, unprocessed food on the table with the people you love is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and to your family.