I have a secret obsession with meal planning and grocery shopping. Each week I literally have to stop myself from going to the grocery store too often. I can't help it, I love it. I often find myself stopping by Trader Joe's just to "look around". Similarly, I find myself doing this with Target as well, but that's a story for another day.
Each week I grab a piece of lined paper and I write down each day of the week we plan on eating at home. Then I glance at my Pinterest food pinboard, browse around foodgawker.com, and adamantly question my husband about what he would like to eat for dinners, lunches, etc. each week. I'm not sure why I obsess over it, or even why I take so much joy in it. It's quite boring actually. "In my free time I enjoy writing lists of foods and which days I'm going to make them...and then I dream about what ingredients to add and how to prepare the meals so I'm not rushing around trying to get dinner ready...and then I walk around Trader Joe's looking for new products I can try". I sincerely hope there are other people out there like me. My husband hates the grocery store. He gets anxiety from all the people and looks at my like a scared child who can't find his parents.
With that said, since my weekly meal planning obsession started a year or two ago, so did my obsession with not wasting food. It's a good habit to have, I'd say, but at times it's problematic. Trying to somehow put broccoli (that's about to go bad) into muffins or oatmeal isn't always a good idea. It's probably not ever a good idea--I dunno, you tell me?
Anyways, each week I write our dinner meals on a chalk board for Brett to choose from. He's a picky eater, and we can also both be indecisive, so it helps to have structure but also give us the freedom to be 'spontaneous'. I've had friends mention that they think it's a great idea to plan out meals, and that they want to start doing it--so here's my take on meal planning:
Each week, think of several meals you could make. When you're planning for just two people, there are often leftovers, so I try to plan around that. For instance, when I make chicken schnitzel, I save half of the raw chicken and freeze it or use it the next night for chicken tacos. I'll make a big pot of homemade black beans and throw some in turkey chili and some in black bean burritos (that I make ahead for Brett to take as lunch for work). I'll buy six bananas for the week and we'll only eat three, so I'll make banana bread for Brett to have for breakfasts. Right before any of my fruits go bad, I cut them up and stick them in a freezer bag to have smoothie ingredients on hand at all times. I'll make turkey meatballs with spaghetti and save half of the meatballs to put on homemade pizza the next night--just to name a few. This not only saves you a lot of money, but it also prevents eating out too much and helps you to eat healthier choices. It also allows controlling planners, like me, to feel good about themselves. By the way, I might be an obsessive planner, but you should see my car, desk drawers, or closets. Disasters. I am not organized when it comes to being neat.
So once I make my lists of meals I want to make, I then move onto creating the grocery list. Being an obsessive grocery shopper also gives me the opportunity to know which stores have the best deals. Trader Joe's is great for certain things, but Sprouts often has cheaper produce. So I make my lists according to grocery stores and where I can get what the cheapest. Then I usually knock it out in one day, or sometimes two when I'm short on time.
So there it is ladies and gentlemen, a guide to meal planning.