How to Plan Meals and Buy Groceries Like a Grownup
Hi, I’m Lisa and I’ve been making meals like a grown up for at least 4 years.
Before you start doing anything pick a specific day and time of day which you will dedicate to selecting meals. I plan meals for one week because I don’t like going to the grocery store, and I can only fit 1 week’s worth of groceries on my bike at a time. I do most of my meal selection Saturdays after brunch. If you do it when you’re really hungry you’ll end up eating terrible food for the duration of your meal schedule.
If you’re as indecisive as I am, you’ll probably want to start this process by figuring out what is currently in your fridge and pantry. I’ve found that when going through both of these, I often come up with a few foods I’d like to eat.
After taking inventory of what you already have, start writing down ideas. As you write down ideas for meals, you should also be thinking about which day you are going to make each meal. Be sure to consider preparation time and your schedule before deciding. I put my meal plan on a white board on the fridge so my roommates see it and can add suggestions or requests as they think of them. If I know that someone is going to be gone for a specific meal, I always try to make a food that s/he doesn’t like for that night. I also find that thinking of meals in terms of components helps me think of more meals. I also suggest keeping a list of every meal that you make with tally marks next to each dish so that you have an idea sheet for when you can’t think of meals to prepare.
Once you have planned out your meals for your given time frame and conferred with your co-consumers, begin looking at recipes for each meal and see which ingredients you already have. If you know how to read and follow directions, you can probably make 2/3 of the food you eat from scratch. This will save you a significant amount of money every month. Once you have reviewed your recipes, begin writing down ingredients that you don’t already have on a separate list. For those of you who are averse to paper versions, I sometimes use BigOven to tell me what ingredients I need as it also sorts them by grocery store department.
Once you have your grocery list, read over it and your recipes again, making sure that you really have everything you need to make each dish either written down or in your house already.
Go buy groceries! Don’t forget to bring your list and something to mark items off of your list as you add them to your cart. Protip: be consistent about not crossing an item off your list until after you have placed it in your cart.
When you get home, unpack your groceries. If you are making a meal using meat more than 2 days from when you buy groceries, you should freeze the meat so it doesn’t spoil in the wait before you use it. Be sure you take it back out to thaw one day before you will cook with it!
My friend Kaitlyn made this menu planner. She is much more of a grownup than I am!