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How I Meal Plan + Grocery Shop

Truth be told I never made any resolutions for the new year. I kept thinking about it and wanting to post about it, but just knew deep down that it didn’t make sense for me. Last year I made some big plans and wrote down a lot of goals I wanted to accomplish. But, as it goes, life happened and 2016 had very different plans for me. Relinquishing control over my “plans” and accepting that going with the flow just feels so much better when you let it and this was the greatest lesson that I want to keep for myself in 2017.

I am historically a list-maker, organizer, and planner at heart, though, and so there are a few areas of my life I still enjoy maintaining primary control over, one of which being what I eat and cook each and every day. As much as I love going out to eat and still indulge in a solid restaurant meal often (usually sushi because there is no way I can make that at home), I am a total homebody and just feel so much better when I prepare and consume my own food. It also doesn’t hurt that cooking for yourself saves SO much money in the long run. I’ve been focusing a lot this year on cooking around 80% of the food we consume and, with this system, have done a really good job of keeping up with my goal so I figured I would share what works for us in case it might be helpful to you!

Step 1: Assess What You Already Have For Inspiration

There is no worse feeling than throwing away expired or unused food, so this is my most crucial tip: before anything else, take a good look into your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have so that a) you don’t have to throw anything out before it expires and b) you save yourself $ by not having to purchase everything. For example, if I have a couple of sweet potatoes left in my pantry from the previous week or I have a box of pasta that I’m tired of looking at, I immediately make those the base of one or two of my meals as I plan ahead. Additionally, look at your condiments and pantry goods for inspiration. Have some soy sauce you rarely use? Find an Asian dish to make this week that will put it to good use! Been meaning to use those lentils or black beans sitting in the pantry? Bring them out and make them the center of a couple of meals this week.

Step 2: Meal Plan + Make A Grocery List

 This is the fun part! Spend some time (while you’re watching tv or need a break from work) perusing Pinterest or your favorite cookbooks/food blogs/etc. for recipe ideas. If you ever need any inspiration, I have a million boards on my Pinterest page for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, etc. ideas! Make sure you include your “assessed” items from Step 1 in your search and planning. For example, if you’ve been wanting to use up black beans, type “black bean recipes” into Pinterest to see what pops up or head to the index of your cookbook and search for some recipes that include your ingredient of choice.

Next up, write them out by day that you plan on making them. I love to write mine digitally in the “notes” app of my iPhone or on a notepad that hangs on the refrigerator.

(i.e. Monday: chicken salad, Tuesday: minestrone soup, etc…)

As you write down all of your recipes, take note of what ingredients you’ll need to purchase so that you know exactly what you need when you get to the store. Don’t forget about little things like spices, oils, condiments that you’ll need if the recipe calls for them.

Additionally, if you make your own breakfast and lunch, feel free to double up on portions for some meals so that you can have leftovers ready to eat the next day or two.

p.s. I posted about my favorite cookbooks here

Step 3: Grocery Shop

Now for the fun part…head to the store with your list and shop! I’ve found that with this system, I am so much less likely to buy things on a whim because I know exactly what I need to get for that week only.

Step 4: Meal Prep + Organize 

When you get home from the store, wash and cut or prep your fruits and veggies, cook any grains or other foods in advance so that they’re ready to go when you need them (I love to roast a bunch of potatoes and make a batch of quinoa, rice or lentils to keep for the week) and organize them in your refrigerator by expiration! Keep your leafy greens and whatever else goes badly the quickest right at your line of sight so that when you open the refrigerator you are reminded to use them up!

Now this is the system that works really well for us, so that does not mean it will be for everyone, but I will admit I used to be one of those grocery shoppers that would spend way too much time aimlessly wandering through grocery stores and then either buy way too much or way too little and inevitably end up wasting some food towards the end of the week because it was poorly planned. Also keep in mind any and all dates you may be busy with a work function or have lunch/dinner plans that you don’t need to plan for.

The next time I do a big grocery haul I’ll post an example of my meals for the week alongside my grocery list in case you’re curious to see the process written out 🙂

Hope this helps! xx

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