Meal planning seems like a total hassle, and sometimes it is, but most of the time it turns out that a few hours of effort on the weekend results in free hours during the week…after a long day at work…and the commute home on Calgary transit.
I will start off by saying that I am a food nerd. It is constantly on my brain. I sign out cookbooks from the library, buy food magazines and now, with the explosion of our dear friend Pinterest, it seems that inspiration is never far away. Since starting my account in December 2012, I have managed to pin around 750-800 recipes, so it’s obviously time to stop pinning and start cooking. I tend to use recipes more as inspiration than an actual list of instructions, but I still like to have them. Lots of them. If you have not yet discovered Pinterest, you must. Immediately.
*Side note – did you know that a Calgary public library card costs only $12 and they have everything from books to blu-rays and DVDs to magazines to CDs? If you are busy (read: lazy) like me, you can even go to their website, put items on hold and have them delivered to your closest branch. Saves you time & the hassle of your branch not having a copy of the book you want. Like I said, I am a nerd. http://www.calgarypubliclibrary.com
Now that you know what you want to eat, it’s time to start the plan. Do a quick inventory of what is in your fridge and needs to be used up and check what is on sale at your grocery store. I plan for at least one meatless meal, a couple of seafood and a meat or chicken and I try to mix up my “genres”…like a pasta dish, Asian or Mexican dish etc. I also plan meals that are a bit more labor intensive for Sunday and meals that have items that can be prepped ahead (ie. cut up veggies, marinate meat, cook rice or quinoa etc.) for A Case Of The Mondays. I tend to make larger meals on Sunday so that I have leftovers that can be used up in a different dish on Tuesday or Wednesday.
For the planning itself, there are a ton of apps, website etc. that can help. I do a rough, rough draft on paper and then use the Pepperplate app for planning and making a shopping list. Pepperplate has become my 2nd best friend (behind the other big P, obviously). It is a recipe box, a menu planner and a grocery list, all in one little app. There are a ton of websites that Pepperplate is linked to that you can import recipes from (copy the URL, paste into Import Recipe). Once you find a recipe, it can be added to your menu planner and the ingredients can be added to your shopping list. You can also write your own recipes or just use the planner and shopping list if you save your recipes elsewhere (like…on Pinterest). Easy Peasy. This is just what works for me…please, use whatever method works for you.
On to the shopping. I don’t coupon (yet), I just check the flyers from our local grocery stores and head for the place that has at least a few things on sale that I already know I need. In a perfect world, I would have some sort of price tracking system that tells me where to shop. Baby steps. I tend to default to Superstore if there is nothing that stands out in the flyers…groceries AND clothes in one store? Yes please. But that’s just personal preference, shop where you want. I looove grocery shopping. If you don’t like it, give me your list and your wallet and I will do it for you. Seriously. I was buying produce at Costco but have realized that it is impossible to get through the exit at that place without at least $150 worth of stuff in your cart. Impossible. Even when you think you are going to be sneaky and not take a cart, you just end up walking around trying to balance a dozen items in your arms. Needless to say, that gets pricey. So I have vowed to shop at regular grocery stores as much as possible and limit Costco trips to once every couple of months.
So, there you go. Now you have recipes and a plan and a list. So go forth, plan and shop.