I am very dedicated to eating healthy at home. Unfortunately, cooking healthy meals tends to be very expensive and take a long time. Since my husband and I both work full time and only have a limited grocery budget, over the years I have come up with a method to keep from slaving away precious hours in the kitchen or reverting to ordering take out. Linked at the end of this post are PDFs of my meal planning and grocery list charts, feel free to try them out! I have my process down to a science and I’m excited to share it with you today!
Step 1 – Schedule meals
I like to schedule two weeks at a time, for three meals per day. Rather than planning only dinner like I used to, I started planning out breakfast and lunch as well to eliminate our consumption of fast food and takeout. This cleaned up our diet a lot and also saved quite a bit of money. I tackle dinners first, then lunches and breakfasts. My first step in meal planning is always to take a look around at what I already have the refrigerator and pantry. I think of meals utilizing these items so they don’t go to waste, and start there filling in my meal plan chart.
Next, I fill in a few standbys – each week we usually have Mexican, Italian and an entree salad. So there are three more nights. You can also check out my post of 25+ healthy dinners for more easy meal ideas. After filling in our standbys, I look up my favorite grocery store’s sale circular for ideas, and keep filling in my chart based on what is on sale. Next I see if there is anything that I can make extra of and recycle. Our lunch is usually last night’s dinner, and I frequently will make a double batch of casseroles or soups that I can pop in the freezer. After that, if I have any remaining blank spots I start to surf Pinterest or question my husband about what he wants to eat the next couple of weeks. Breakfasts are usually rearranged throughout the week, but listing ideas helps us make sure we have enough food for each week and avoid the local bagel shop.
Step 2 – Grocery shop
To make my grocery list, first I walk through my house to see what essentials we are low on, then I go through my meal plan and write down each ingredient needed. My grocery list is organized into categories in the store, which helps me to avoid doubling back through the store. To save money, I shop at two grocery stores. It might seem time consuming, but since I only do major grocery shopping twice a month, I don’t mind one extra stop. First I hit a discount supermarket to get whatever they have available at a lower price, Aldi is the current favorite nearby. Then I go to our local Shoprite to pick up the rest of my list. While I am shopping, I pay attention to the prices per pound. Not everything at discount stores is actually discounted. There are many things at most discount supermarkets that actually may be more expensive than at your regular grocery store. By comparing this price per pound week after week, I have a better idea of whether or not I am getting a good deal.
Step 3 – Food prep
I find doing meal prep saves me time throughout the week and ensures that my purchases all get eaten. When DJ and I both take a couple hours of our weekend to prep our groceries, it makes the time go twice as quickly. Fruits and vegetables get packaged into snack sized portions to enjoy throughout the week. Meat gets trimmed, marinated and thrown in the freezer. Many many vegetables are washed and chopped. Seasonings and dressings needed in the week ahead get mixed up.
Download the 2 week meal planner and grocery list charts here to try it yourself!
After taking the time to schedule meals, grocery shop and prep ingredients, healthy eating is on autopilot for the next two weeks! It is a great feeling not to have to worry if there is anything to eat or whether or not we have time to prepare it. Share your healthy eating and meal planning tips with us in the comments!