Is meal planning too big of a job or you just don’t make time for it? It’s true that it takes more time but did you know that for every 1 minute you spend planning you save 10 minutes of time (thank you, Brian Tracey, who wrote “Eat That Frog”, an awesome time management book you should pick up at the library).
To help you start meal planning, head to your favorite supermarket and follow these tips!
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Make One Supermarket Your Best Friend
Pick the one store you do most of your food shopping at then memorize it. Notice how you shop the store, like where you always go and where your favorite foods are.
Next, get to know the people that work there. Ask questions like when their delivery days are or if they’d carry food you have to go elsewhere to purchase. Just like in business, relationships can get you places and so can making friends at your local grocery store.
If you don’t get their flyer mailed to you every week get on it. If you can’t get on their mailing list bookmark their webpage. If they are a small chain and don’t have a website, look for someone that posts their flyers weekly or who blogs about the store.
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Check Your Store's Free Handouts Weekly
When you first enter your store there should be a stand with free handouts the store offers. Some stores have a map of their store. If it’s not updated often you need to make your own (see next tip). Big food chains offer a magazine with recipes you can make. How convenient is it to have a store tell you what to cook based on the food they sell?
Keep a few of these flyers and learn when during the month your favorite foods go on sale (if budgeting is a concern for you).
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Make a Store Map that Shows What You Buy
First, take a picture of each aisle sign. Next, take a picture of each item you purchase in that aisle. If budgeting is important to you, take this picture in front of the price sign. Last, learn how the meats are organized along the back wall of the store.
With this information, you’re ready to make your map! On an 8 x 10 piece of paper, draw a grid. Then give each box a number which stands for the aisle number. In each box write down what you purchase in each aisle. Leave a bit of room for you to write down things don’t purchase on a daily basis.
Here's the most important thing: At the top of the list make a list of meals you'll cook for the week. Keep reading to learn how.
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Make a Online Meal List or a Recipe Binder
You know that feeling when you have no clue what to make for dinner? It’s time to stop that. You need to create a list of meals you like to cook and where you can find their recipes. Your meals will be based on the food you can find at the supermarket you've memorized.
You can organize your recipes two ways. One way is to make a digital meal list saved on your tablet or laptop. You'll organize the list based on the protein in the meal and will then hyperlink to the online recipe.
Or you can make a physical binder. Here's how to create one. Buy a 1-inch binder and fill it with a few pieces of paper, tabs, clear sheet protectors, and index cards. In the front of the binder keep a list of dinners you’re really good at making according to the type of protein or meat. On the tabs write down appetizers, side dishes, meat, chicken, pork, fish, and breakfast. Then place sheet protectors in each section and fill them with your recipe cards.
Make this binder or list a work in progress. Every month add a new recipe you made over the weekend that was easy and your family devoured.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Make a Food Shopping List from Your Store Map
Now you’re ready to plot your shopping list on the map. On your map, fill in your meals for the week. Then from that meal plan start checking off the things you need on your map! Next, check off the weekly items that you need.
If you get stuck on what to cook, look at the items in your pantry. Most products have recipes on them to encourage you to buy them more often. If you're still stumped, check out free handouts you grabbed last week and pick a recipe to try over the weekend.
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Now Delegate Food List Making
Your store map list can be photocopied each week and kept on your fridge. You and other family members can then check things off the list instead of asking you to remember that you ran out of something or they need something.
Feel the weight lift off your shoulders knowing that anything anyone in your home needs is on that list and all anyone needs to do is make a little check mark next to it.
No more excuses
If you've always wanted to meal plan you don't have any more excuses. With a store map, a list of meals to fill in each week, and recipe resources, your meal planning can be made easier within a week. Good luck!