Sunday, October 19, 2014

Meal Planning and Couponing Series: Part 1

I'm alllll about making things as easy as possible in life. Don't get me wrong. I work very hard, but when it comes to making meals that are delicious and wholesome, I don't have a lot of time to spend because of other priorities. And I know that's how many other people view it as well. When it comes to meal planning, I try to pick only dinners (and breakfasts & lunches) that are quick and easy to prepare or can be cooked using a crockpot while I'm at work. Pinterest is also an addiction a love of mine, so I use recipes I have pinned from there, as well, each week. If I don't find one that I can cook quickly, I reserve that for a weekend when I have more time (like weekends aren't usually booked, too, but we can dream).

Steps to Meal Planning:

1. Set aside one day a week to focus on preparing meals and making a grocery list for each week. It should only take about an hour to get organized and complete all of these steps (except for the actual meal prep, if applicable).

2. Purchase a Sunday newspaper. You don't need a subscription to the entire week, if you don't want it, and you can also buy them for $2 each on Sundays at drug stores, convenient stores, and grocery stores. You'll want the coupons for later steps!

3. Browse through ads and circle the best prices of which to take advantage. You may shop at different stores, but due to time constraints, I try to stick with one store that I know has competitive prices! My choice here is Smith's! Sometimes, I try to make a trip to Target, as well, if they have great sale prices that can be combined with coupons. More on that later! :)

4. Browse Pinterest board (or websites you love, if applicable) and select any new recipes you'd like to make, especially if they use ingredients on sale. I try to make one new recipe each week! After I've made it, if I think it should be added to the rotation, I move it to a "Tried and Loved" board, so I have the recipe at my fingertips if need be.

5. Keep a binder of all recipes that are used frequently, so you have them on hand and do not have to spend time printing them out each time or pulling them up on your phone. Plus, you'll find that your list of loved recipes just keeps growing! If you find that you have tried a recipe, have it in the binder, but don't particularly enjoy it, just remove it (and to be discussed later, take it out of excel sheet).

6. If trying a new Pinterest or other recipe, print out said recipe and place it in binder. I'm going to end up having several of these! I don't have anything fancy. I am hoping to make nicer printable dividers and index them soon, but for now, I just have a plain $2 three-ring binder from Wal-Mart, dividers, and sheet protectors.

7. Write down three meals for each of the seven days of the week, as well as snacks. Make sure to include leftovers, as well, if you are planning on having them (especially for lunches)! Try to choose meals that have not been prepared for 2+ weeks to give variety and at least one crockpot meal, if preferred.

Note: My list of rotated meals (15+ will be shared) will be coming soon, just a little later in the series!

8. On the same worksheet (provided for you later in the series!), list all ingredients needed for meals, checking your cabinets to make sure you don't already have them. Beside them, check the box to indicate if on sale. This will help to compare with the coupons in the next steps to achieve the best deal!

9. Make note of meals planned for that week somewhere (a chalkboard, whiteboard, piece of paper) to remind yourself what needs to be done for the next day and the week ahead. For example, if you are planning on preparing a crockpot meal, usually they are frozen and need to be defrosted the night before you place in the crockpot. It always helps to have the reminder somewhere! :)

10. It will also take some more time to prepare ingredients for crockpot meals, dinners that can be prepped ahead of time, lunches, etc. I find that spending more time one day a week (usually it's Sunday for me) saves much more time during the week. I usually chop and prepare all ingredients for the crockpot meal planned and place in a ziploc in the freezer until the night before. Then, I have the crockpot ready to go, so I can just place the meal inside for the next day! All ready when you get home, except for any sides you might plan.

I also try to make batches of grilled chicken, rice, and vegetables to quickly stir fry together (or make a salad or sandwich out of) on Sunday, so I can prepare them easily in ten minutes the morning the lunch is needed. It saves so much time and MONEY! Making enough for leftovers is great, too.

I don't generally prep for dinners, however. The meals I make are fast enough (usually 30 minutes or less) that I can get it ready without starving waiting for dinner.

For breakfast, I sometimes prepare a batch of waffle/pancake batter and have it ready to go, so I can make it quickly. But most of the time, my husband and I have cereal, or I prepare some scrambled eggs with veggies fast. Simple and delicious!

My easy steps to couponing, post 2 is coming up next! :)

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Much Love!

Much Love!