“I should know how to meal plan? Already?! I thought that was something that families do?” If you found that quote to be not-too-far-off from your current train of thought – never fear. while meal planning may be most well known as a tactic used by growng families to pinch pennies, i will explain to you why it’s important to meal plan no matter what your age or family situation.
Why should i meal plan?
There’s a reason that growing families who want to save a few bucks meal plan – they save money. Often times, it’s more than just a few bucks, it can be tens of bucks. As a college student, on a college budget, it’s very important for me to save money where I can. As someone who loves to cook
and is the ultimate impulse shopper , meal planning has allowed me to continue to cook for enjoyment, after saving money at the grocery store.
Not only does meal planning save you serious cash, but it takes the guess work out of what you’ll eat for dinner for 2-3 weeks. If you’re like me, after a long day of classes and meetings, the last thing I want to do when I get home is rummage through the fridge and cabinets for inspiration for dinner. Meal planning provides structure for your food life, so that you don’t have to waste at least half an hour searching for something to eat before your hangry self settles on a bag of popcorn.
Okay, I get it. But how do i do it?
- Decide what you want to eat and when.
Raid your family’s recipe book, scourge Pinterest (my method of choice) or create your own recipes. Currently, I usually select 5-8 recipes for two weeks’ worth of eating because I know that on days when I’m super crunched for time and/or (usually and) stressed I won’t have the time or desire to cook an edible masterpiece. After you’ve decided on what you want to eat, make sure you plan on a day when you’ll cook. I would suggest avoiding days when you know you’ll be crammed for time, but try to develop a plan that you’ll stick to.
2. Write down the necessary Ingredients.
Writing down ALL ingredients (including spices) not only helps me see how many ingredients there are, but it let’s me see if there are any exotic ingredients and gauge if the recipe may be overly complex for me.
3. Condense the list.
After you’ve written down the ingredients for each recipe, it’s time to make one master list (which will then turn into the shopping list). Now, it’s time to condense! Look through each of the recipe lists and see what ingredients overlap and add up the quantities. For example, cheese is required in
a few most of my recipes, so if two recipes require one half cup of mozzarella cheese each, then on my master list I would write 1 cup mozzarella cheese (1/2 + 1/2 = 1 cup). That being said, once you’ve gone through the recipes if you notice that a few ingredients don’t overlap, put those items on the list (obviously, they are still necessary for recipe success).
4. Add the extras.
This is when I add in items for quick meals and snacks. For us, that’s about 3 extra boxes of pasta, mac and cheese, bagels and snacks. If you’re low on necessities, obviously write those down.