New month, fresh start, new goals – I want May to be THE month where I focus on meals, planning, prepping (saving$) and enjoying our family before the rat race of summer hits us and we are pulled into 25 different directions.
I stumbled upon the #GreatAmericanCookIn and it really peaked my interest to jump on board and vow to make as many meals as possible in my own home this month. I feel like one of my biggest/best qualities is that I am SUPER organized – not OCD organized, just plain jane organized and let me say it comes in handy when we’re talking meal planning. Every week I am going to bring you along with my meal planning, shopping (couponing) and prepping. I have found that 100% of the time when I plan meals we save so much money and we also don’t waste nearly as much food due to overbuying. I mean honestly, how many times do we walk in the store with no list and no clue WHAT to make for dinner throughout the week, grab a bunch of things that look good then the week goes by and we only ended up using half of what we bought or had to make another trip later in the week to get 20 more items we
forgot didn’t know we needed. It’s SO expensive going that route and in our case turns out being wasteful. Here’s how Kevin and I go about our weekly planning.
I am not here to tell you how to shop, where to shop, what to eat or anything like that because I’m sure you’ve heard it all before: “shop the sales”, “go to different stores”, “look for coupons”…and yeah while I do some of that, that’s only a small portion to making this whole thing work. I plan meals a couple of different ways.
Planning is the hardest and most consuming part of the process because you need to find 10-15 minutes of peace and quiet and figure things out. It may be messy and chaotic as you lay things across the chair, table, couch and any flat surface you find. I do a couple things here – first, I look at my grocery store’s website and see if there are any deals they offer. I rotate between Trader Joes, Big Y and Stop-n-Shop. On S&S website they have a page called “coupons”, here I can load digital coupons right to my card so when I purchase it, the savings get taken off right at the register. These perks are great because they are specific to me based on things I already buy. Digital coupons are added almost daily and can be used within 10 minutes of clicking “load to card”.
Depending on my mood – sometimes I KNOW what I want to make and other times I have no idea – I will start planning. I have a separate piece of paper and write down meals or snacks that I definitely know I want to make. This can be based on something I saw in a magazine, on TV, online or because of something we already have in the freezer or cupboard. Side-note: I keep a small note on my freezer and keep inventory of what is in there – this has been a huge help for planning. Next, I see if any meals or snacks are similar. For example, do I want to make meatloaf and burgers do I want to make bbq chicken, crockpot chicken and chickan kabobs. Making different meals with the same meat/protein is budget friendly and makes planning a cakewalk.
Finally, I shop the ads (sometimes!). My menu and shopping list are USUALLY done by the time the weekly ad comes out but I will take a look anyway and maybe grab something for the following week or change some meals around based off a good sale.
2. Menu / Lists / Coupons / Shopping
Now that I have an idea of what I want to make, I begin writing everything in my planner. Breakfasts and snacks usually are the same throughout the week or as long as they’ll last. Making something different everyday is very difficult. I first write down breakfast and right away make my list of what I need to achieve that meal. If I am planning protein pancakes – I want to make sure we have eggs and bananas. I do this for each meal and write down what I need to buy for each recipe.From here, I also go through manufacturers coupons and any digital coupons I have. If I wrote down “pasta sauce” then I can go through coupons and see what I have savings for (or base it on the weekly flier). Aside from just writing down the item, I also write down how many – this helps and makes shopping not a guessing game. If I need peppers, avocados and limes I write “green peppers (3), avocados (2) and limes (4)” (this way if someone else is shopping for me, they know exactly what to get). I know some people also write their list in the order of how the store is laid out but I’m not that crazy. Stop-n-Shop also offers digital coupons like “$5 off when you spend $50” or “$2 off any $5 seafood purchase”…if you link these up with weekly specials you’re bound to save mucho dinero.
At the end of my shopping trip I have an idea of how much I saved with all the coupons and sales but I always make sure the big ticket coupons processed properly – everything else can be fixed at the service desk.
The meal prepping is probably the most time consuming and not always so fun. I usually do my prep on Sunday and it can take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on what we’re eating for the week. If I make a quiche for breakfast, I’ll thaw my bacon on Saturday (or Sunday morning) and bake it in the oven while I prep the potatoes and veggies. We eat a lot of brown rice which is something else that is easily prepped on the weekend for quick meals during the week. Other easy meals for prep: sausage and peppers, quesadillas, zucchini fritters, tuna patties, stuffed meatballs and egg scramble. The key is to prep items that go with everything and usually take longer to cook or prepare. This includes, (rice as stated before), roasting sweet potatoes or any other veggie, cooking meatloaf or meatballs, washing/peeling/slicing vegetables for snacks or salads and baking muffins.
After the food is cool we package it up in one of two ways; we split the food into equal portions and put in containers ahead of time for easy grab and go, or throw things in larger air tight containers and scoop out a serving each night. Something like sausage and peppers we tend to portion out right away while egg scramble, pancakes or quiche we store in a large container and split up as needed.
I feel like there’s a lot of information here…and maybe there is but I want to really help you to better plan because it makes life SO much easier. It was really upsetting me when I spent most of my nights in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and less time with Brandon and Kevin. Those few hours on a Sunday when Brandon is sleeping make for easy, more relaxing work nights. Just a little preparation and planning brings the stress level way down.
Check back every week this month for tips and tricks to make your #GreatAmericanCookIn even easier! Look for my follow up at the end of the week to see what I made! I hope you enjoyed this post, follow me and comment with your tips, ideas or questions for how to get planning. Love you and thanks for reading.