I found a very efficient way to planning my meals, but it took me a couple of times to get it down. I now love it and it takes me about 1.5 hours for planning and shopping. It was triggered by an idea from Brandice Lardner, one of my awesome nutrition coaches.
- I shop in 30 minutes or less
- I dont overbuy or forget ingredient
- I save quite a bit of money
- I buy high quality ingredients
I dont do the same 5 meals during the week any longer . Its 3 of the same kind of meals Sunday through Tuesday, and then Wednesday through Saturday another round (on Thursdays I fast). I cook on Sundays for the first round of meals and Tuesday for the second one. The cooking time also was reduced substantially to 1 hour or less. I used to do the Sunday ritual this last year to cook up everything for the week and it took at least 2 to 3 hours every Sunday.
Step by Step
I get my cookbooks and blogs out and cruise through them, finding the recipes that look most appealing for the new week. Then I put some sticky notes those recipes or drop them into Evernote.
I have a template but you can use a sheet of paper or a journal to jot down the meal arrangements and combos for the week or even a month. For breakfast I usually choose anything eggs, sometimes pancakes. Lunches are some kind of meals/salads that look the most appealing and fun. And dinners are shakes. Still love them and they work well for me.
I go by pictures in the cookbooks and blogs. While I can very well imagine based on ingredients how something tastes, the effort of reading and then using my imagination takes too much time in my opinion.
I try to vary the kind of meats and veggies for more optimal nutrient intake. But a template base could be by beef, chicken, pork, lamb, vegetarian, and fish for the main proteins. I then plug the recipes I need for the week into the MealBoard app (via the web at http://mealboard.com/) if they are not already in there.
I then switch to my iPad (I wish the online version would allow that) to assign the meals to the days and generate the shopping list for the week. I do weekly shopping trips, but if every 3 days or monthly works better for you, you have that option without much effort.
Next step is to check the fridge/freezer/pantry for the items on hand and check them off if the are still in stock. Then the shopping list is ready for the trip. The items are assigned by Aisle and Store of your choosing to speed up the shopping dramatically. There I go on my trip to the local co-op, usually early Saturday mornings.
I found that I have way more fun with new meals, I am better organized and it has become a very fast process. Though when you start out it will be a little slower process as you have to learn your own routine, the software, enter meals, and assign items at least to aisles. But for sure if you are a planner this effort is totally worth it.
So what are your Happy Meals? Having fun with foods is so important.