The first step to coming up with any meal plan is to assess what you’ve got. This can be a quick pantry check, or it could result in cleaning out your whole refrigerator. It just depends on how long it’s been since you’ve planned or made a meal at home. Making sure you’re organized and that food is easy to get to eliminates food waste and it helps you know what needs to be used up. Those ingredients are what you should prioritize on your meal plan.
If you have recipes you want to make, mark off the ingredients you have before writing them down on a shopping list. That way you will keep from spending any more than you have to.
Another trick when dealing with inventory is to do what the pros do. Use FIFO (first in first out) when stocking up and write down the date whenever you put back an open product.
Inspiration from Deals
Another beginning stage to creating a meal plan is to get inspiration from the weekly deals and coupons. This is where you can find really cheap items to stock up on for future meals as well. If you get a good coupon for something you need, or will definitely use, add it to your meal plan and shopping list.
Good deals to look for include breads, proteins, canned foods, dairy, and cereal. But you can use any deal as meal inspiration if it gives you an idea for something to make.
Plan Cheap Meals
Get 9 of my super helpful, instantly downloadable printable meal plan printables HERE.
Cooking at home saves money. No question about it. However, you stand to save a lot more money if you plan cheap meals from the beginning. You can make a meal for two for 10%-20% of the cost of your fast food order without breaking much of a sweat, but with the right ingredients, you can save more. One of the cheapest ingredients is rice, if you buy it in bulk. The microwave bags can still save you money, but they are way more expensive comparatively to a large bag of rice that will make many meals.
A meal doesn’t need to be over complicated. Focus on the basics of meeting nutritional needs first. After you get more comfortable with meal planning and have settled into a routine, you can elaborate more and get more creative.
Meal prep is essential to getting through the cooking process. Once you have your meal plan and your ingredients you should make things easy for yourself by cutting and portioning anything you need for the week ahead. If you don’t have good containers, consider investing in some durable dishwasher save plastic tubs.
If you are meticulous about measuring, it’s a good idea to get that out of the way as much as possible too. Otherwise you can eyeball your measurements, which will become more natural the more you do this. The idea is that by the time you are ready to cook it’s just matter of throwing it all together and you can do it easily and quickly.
Plan Bulk Meals
I love the MyFreezeasy system for bulk freezer meals.
If you have the storage capacity, bulk meal planning is an excellent way to save money. You save on the price per unit on most of the items and you ensure that the products you buy are immediately put to use. When you freeze your meals for later, they have all the convenience of a frozen dinner at the store, but for pennies on the dollar.
When you plan your bulk meals try to have it so that you have just enough of everything so that nothing is left over. This is most important with Bulk Meals because you are unlikely to use those products or ingredients again for some time. If you have left over ingredients from a normal week of meal planning, you can just include it in the next weeks plan. However, if you don’t want to get trapped in a cycle consider how many units you need to buy of an item. The higher value of larger sizes, does not necessarily save you any money. It can actually cost you more.
The bulk section at the grocery store is ideal for certain ingredients you need a little or a lot of, so take advantage of this option whenever you can.
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