Meal planning is key to staying within a budget and preventing food waste. In a Google doc, I keep a list of my fresh, refrigerated and pantry items with their expiration dates so that I know what I have and can plan to use items up before they go bad. This works quite well for me, especially since I am regularly traveling. Once a week I take about 30 min of my time to set up an agenda for the week.
First, I think about what I am in the mood for. This allows me to deal with any strong cravings I may have and for the enjoyment of my meals. Typically, in the winter I tend to crave warm foods, while in the Summer I want a lot of raw and fresh produce. I am currently transitioning to cooking things such as hearty soups, toasted sandwiches and roasted veggie bowls.
Second, I think about how I could use what I have in a recipe that meets what I am in the yearning for. I always try to use what I already own to save money and help use up food before it expires. If a recipe asks for rice, but I have quinoa and farro, I will just sub what I have for the rice.
Third, I make a list of what I do not already have to make my meals for the week. I shop once a week so that my ingredients are as fresh as possible and I try to make sure I do not shop hungry or in a rush to ensure I walk out with ONLY the items on my list.
Let me give you a for instance. A few weeks ago, I made a soup out of the onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, and squash I already had leftover from the previous week. I bought some fresh kale and lentils to add some extra nutrition. I really wanted a warm, filling soup for supper and I was still craving that. So the following week I planned to make 2 soups. A loaded baked potato soup to finish off the potatoes and a cheddar I had and black bean pumpkin soup to finish off the pumpkin I had in the fridge before it began to mold. I already had canned black beans from Costco. The only ingredients I needed to purchase to make these 2 soups were diced tomatoes and an onion. I have a budget of $40 per week for groceries and the one week I only spent a few dollars!
What about Breakfast? Well I have oat bran already plus ingredients I can mix into it, such as milk, nuts, frozen berries, raisins, apples and for a savory oatmeal I have eggs, natto and tamari. 🙂 I have really fallen in love with savory oatmeal 🙂
I get asked this a lot by my coworkers, “Don’t you get bored with your food?” I do not get bored of my meals as long as they taste amazing, which I have complete control of by making my own food. 🙂 You could also try to prepare two different entires per meal per week if you are concerned with getting bored. That way you may alternate between the two each day.
Do you meal plan? What are your strategies and priorities?