Real Food Tips: 8 Meal Planning Pointers

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A couple of weeks ago we discussed the fact that meal planning is an important part of sticking to a budget. Not only does meal-planning help you stay on track financially, but I personally think it helps keep things interesting as well. If I actually dedicate a little time to planning out our dinners for the upcoming week there’s a much better chance we’ll have something to look forward to. I know a lot of you out there are expert meal planners (military style!) so please share any tips I left out in the comments below.

Our Fridge

  1. Scour your fridge, pantry, & freezer so you can make note of ingredients you have on hand that should be used before they spoil. Also, make note of any staples you could incorporate as well (like rice or beans) to reduce your overall grocery purchases.
  2. Ask your local farmers market if they have an email list or newsletter so you can be notified of what they expect to offer at the next market. If not, figure out what will be in-season so you can plan meals around those items before you go.
  3. Check out your favorite supermarket’s weekly sales ad to see if there’s anything interesting you could incorporate in your meal plan.
  4. Sit down and spend at least 15 minutes planning out your dinners and grocery list for the week ahead based on the food you have on hand, (potential) farmers’ market finds, and grocery store sales. Pick out one brand new recipe to try each week to keep things interesting! Be adventurous and go for at least one meal a week you’ve never made before.
  5. If you have kids get them involved in helping you think of meal ideas for the upcoming week. Pull out some cookbooks, sit down together, and ask for their input. My 6-year-old doesn’t even know it yet, but she is best at motivating me to try those recipes I would have never normally picked on my own!
  6. In-between your weekly meal planning sessions always be on the lookout for inspiring recipes and meal ideas. Keep those recipes handy in a file folder or other reliable spot so you can reference them easily for inspiration.
  7. Only plan to make 4 to 5 different dinners each week – one of which is a new recipe. You can have leftovers, scrounge (breakfast for dinner anyone?), or be spontaneous on the other nights.
  8. Most importantly…be flexible. If something unexpected comes up one evening (like laziness!) just move the planned dinner to the next night.

Reminder: If you really aren’t into meal planning no matter how hard you try, then let our sponsor, The Fresh 20, do it for you!

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44 comments to Real Food Tips: 8 Meal Planning Pointers

  • […] Meal planning helps so you know what will be expected out of you each night, and it will also ensure you have the right groceries on hand to make it happen (making a trip to the store for only one thing takes time!). […]

  • Ali

    What does CSA mean?

    • Bethany

      Ali, CSA: Community Support Agriculture. Typically, you pay a participating farmer an upfront fee, then each week, you pick up a specified amount of produce that he or she has grown. It’s a great way to get local, often organic produce, as long as you can afford the up-front amount! Google search CSAs for your area and see what’s available!

  • Carla Hankins

    Love your post, thanks for all the great ideas and meal planning that’s the hardest thing for me.

  • Nicole D.

    I write my meals on post-it notes that fit well in the boxes of my family ‘s calendar. I can easily move the meal to another day this way, and I often go back to previous months and peel off the post-it and put it on an upcoming day. This saves me lots of time. Thanks for the post, 100 Days!

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