Meal Planning 101 for Newlyweds
When my husband and I tied the knot almost 5 years ago, I honestly had not even considered the idea of meal planning. As a result, we dined out more nights than we cooked at home. I had no idea how to properly grocery shop and often got frustrated at the grocery store. And then I got frustrated again when I had to throw perishable food away later in the week because it spoiled and I never used it.
These days, though, meal planning is a standard part of our week. In fact, I've come to enjoy planning our meals each week. Not only are we saving money, but I also have a very specific list when grocery shopping, making the entire trip much more focused and enjoyable.
Even if you hate cooking and don't spend much time in the kitchen, I encourage you to try meal planning. Plan meals you know you'll be comfortable (and enjoy!) cooking. Keep the whole process easy on yourself so you don't get overwhelmed or frustrated. Who knows...you may end up enjoying your time in the kitchen!
Here are some additional tips to help you start meal planning for two:
Set aside a dedicated block of time every weekend. I prefer to do my meal planning on Sunday mornings, but pick a time and day that works best for your schedule. Keep in mind you'll want to do your grocery shopping after planning your meals for the week, so make sure you meal plan in plenty of time to shop for the week, too. I spend about 30 minutes each Sunday jotting down each night's dinner, a list of items to have on hand for breakfast and lunches, and then I create a grocery list based off our meals for the week.
Prep your food after grocery shopping. If at all possible, prep any foods for the week you can ahead of time. For instance, wash and dry all your fruits and vegetables, bake any protein you plan to use, and place individual portions of items in Ziploc bags or tupperware to quickly grab for breakfast or lunch.
Take the week's schedule into account. If you know you'll be late returning home on night, plan to have extra leftovers from the night before ready or put your slow cooker to use. This will ensure you're using the food you've paid for and not deciding to order takeout because you're starving and haven't even thought about dinner.
Buy bulk items and prepare them differently throughout the week. Bulk items are often going to be cheaper than smaller quantities. Buy in bulk and prepare the same foods in different ways throughout the week to save money. So you don't get bored with the same foods, switch up which bulk items you get each week.
Plan meals around your coupons. If you're a coupon clipper, check your coupons before planning your meals. Plan meals around the coupons you've clipped to save money on your grocery bill.
Buy what's in season. For produce, stick with items that are currently in season in your area. Seasonal items are much fresher, taste better, and are cheaper than out-of-season produce.
Leave room for leftovers. This is a new tip I've just recently learned after weeks and weeks of meal planning. I found I was still wasting money by buying excess food we weren't eating and throwing away. We have leftover food two or three nights a week, so I always build in one or two days each week that I don't plan to prepare dinner. On those nights, we have leftovers or I turn our leftovers into a new meal. Another option is to have leftovers for lunch and you won't have to plan any lunch items during your meal planning session each week!