If you follow me on Instagram you know that I’ve been having a major sweet-tooth lately. There’s something about cold weather and baking that I just love! While I would eat brownies for breakfast everyday I try to resist the urge and instead I’ve been making this amazing blueberry, banana, cinnamon, and walnut baked oatmeal. Also, while I am definitely not even close to being a “foodie” I have been trying to get more into cooking actual meals and not resorting to my go-to’s: eggs and toast, a bowl of cereal, or just eating the other random foods I find in my cupboards.
I’ve found that if I actually make plans on what to eat I not only save money at the grocery store but I make way more creative and healthy meals. I’ve acquired a nice collection of cookbooks (most of which have been given to me as gifts) so a couple of days ago I pulled them all out went through them with a pad of little sticky notes and marked which ones look both tasty and like I might be able to pull off.
I looked for recipes that had common, everyday ingredients. If a recipe called for something exotic (to me) like: farro, pepitas, tarragon or harissa then they were no longer an option. I hate buying uncommon ingredients for recipes and then only using them once, twice, or never again. It just bugs me too much to waste food and money like that.
I started compiling a list of all of the meal ideas organized by type of meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, and sides so I could easily reference them when I started planning our meals. I found that by doing that extra prep work in the beginning it saved lots of time when it came time to do the actual pen-to-paper planning.
Next, I made up some meal plan charts (I’ve provided the links to my 10 meal plan templates for you below). I started by putting the date over the day of the week noting if we had any special events or guests coming into town because that will impact what we want to eat and cook.
I then started filling out what I knew. I know that my husband only wants to drink smoothies for breakfast so there’s no point in planning out breakfasts. For me, recently I’ve really been into making that baked oatmeal that I mentioned above so I make it in the beginning of the week and eat it all week with my coffee.
Then, I started filling in the dinners and made note of which meals we would likely have leftovers from and those would be lunch for the next day. Also, I tried to keep with the same types of ingredients. For example, I’m going to try Sweet Potato Enchiladas on Saturday and Sweet Potato Quesadillas on Sunday. Look at that sweet potato mania!
Initially, my plan was to map out 7 dinners and then I quickly got overwhelmed with that idea since we’re not used to cooking every night so I decided I would start with planning out 3 dinners and see how that goes and gradually work up to planning more meals each week. I also think that once we get some recipes down it will be even easier to plan meals for a longer period of time, like a month out, which would be nice to be able to do eventually.
Here’s what one of my meal plan charts looks like: You can find all 9 Printable Meal Plan Templates HERE. They are all 8″ x 11″. Be sure to print in the landscape setting and draft mode to save money on ink.
Do you meal plan? And if so, do have any tips for me?
Also, I’ll be giving away a copy of Beth Moncel’s new book Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half next week so be sure to check back about that giveaway!