I am one of those people who has always loved to work. At any given time I have had anywhere from two to four jobs. I have had three major careers in my life, paired with countless part-time jobs. I am really good at making money and my Grandma will tell you I am also really good at spending it! Included in this long list of jobs are two stints at two different grocery stores. One being Jewel, a job a loved, and the other being at a store that rhymes with Schmole Doods, that I DESPISED! Overall, working in grocery stores taught me a lot about smart shopping, meal planning, and how to save money on food. I consider myself a Grocery Store Guru based upon the exorbitant amount of time I have spent working and shopping in stores.
Many people message me and tell me that one of the reasons they don’t cook is because they hate the meal planning and they hate grocery shopping. I decided it was time for me to do a meal planning/grocery shopping post to hopefully make it less daunting for people and inspire people to get cooking again. This method I developed is one I used to teach to families when I worked in food advocacy for a national Not For Profit that taught low-income families how to cook and eat healthier and more affordably. It is a tried and true method and I think you will find it to be very helpful.
When it comes to meal planning the first step is usually one that people miss. My first piece of advice is to NOT make a meal plan for the week with designated meals for each day. You end up being stuck with meals you thought sounded good when you made the plan, and now have no taste for. Or having to make a complicated meal on a day you didn’t expect to be complicated. Instead of designating specific dishes for each day, I find it more helpful to come up with a general theme for each day. My meal plan for the week is as follows:
Weekly Meal Plan
- Monday ~ Meatless
- Tuesday ~ Tacos
- Wednesday ~ Pasta
- Thursday ~ Refreshed Leftovers
- Friday ~ Pizza
- Saturday ~ Take Out/Dine Out
- Sunday ~ Sunday Supper / Roast / All Day Stove Top Simmer
This method allows you to be creative with your meals as well as carry over ingredients from one day to the next. In order for this to work you have to shop smart. The best way to shop smart and make a little time on your day off to prep. I follow a general shopping list with meals in mind, not included in this list are breakfast and snack items. This is a specific list to have ingredients on hand to throw together dinners for the week. Feel free to mix up the basics with items of your choice. My list is as follows:
Weekly Shopping List
- One Protein To Roast
- One Ground Protein
- One Stir Fry Protein
- Onions and Garlic or Some Variation, Shallots, Etc
- Two Stir Fry Friendly Veggies
- Two Roasting Friendly Veggies
- 2 Grains
- One Carb Based Item, like flatbread, pita, rolls, etc.
- Some Kind of Sauce for basting or Stir Fry, or ingredients to make sauce
- A Special Ingredient to Snazz Up A Meal, Fancy Salt, Oil or Cheese
These items will have you covered for the entire weeks worth of meals. You will need to make time to prep your food. Pour yourself a cocktail, plan to spend about an hour, and get to prepping. The simplest prep is as follows:
- Brown your ground protein(s).
- Process any other proteins
- Wash, Dice, Slice all your veggies, except for potatoes.
- Make all your grains for the week.
- Prepare All Sauces & Marinades
Store all your prepped items to use during the week. You will need to do some leg work and find recipes that you want to use for your general meal plan. But doing a simple search on Pinterest will make that step easy. Remember that the categories are a general suggestion and don’t have to be followed precisely. For example, Taco Tuesday can be quesadillas, lettuce wraps, mexican themed salads and more. Have fun and get creative.
A final way to make meals easier is to use components from each days meals for the next days meals. For example, Sunday’s Roast Chicken can be Tuesday’s quesadillas, Mondays leftover veggies becomes Wednesday’s creamy pasta dish. Leftovers from Sunday and Monday can become Thursday’s stir fry dish using the marinade/sauce you prepped. Tuesday’s leftover taco shells and Monday’s veggies can be Friday’s tortilla pizza components. Make it easy on yourself!
This method will make meal planning and prep less stressful and more cost efficient. As you get more comfortable you can adjust your weekly themes and add in new recipes!
One thing to remember when you are doing your weekly shopping trip……Don’t forget the wine! Wine always makes meal prep just a little bit easier!
These fabulous photos of me were taken by Levine-Moore Photography
Special thanks to one of my favorite grocery spots, Valli Produce for letting me take pictures in your store!