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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Writer's pictureEmma Tierson

The Reality of Weekly Meal Planning

Meal planning in media is not at all what it is like in real life. Here is an inside look at my personal experience of meal planning.

The meal plan above is what my "goal" was to make last week. I did my shopping on Monday morning, so I was already off schedule and either skipping or doing an alternative breakfast. This is super typical. Meal planning to a lot of people seems to be this big scary concept, but the most important thing to remember is that meal planning is supposed to help you and ease your mind so you can focus on more important things. If something isn't going as planned, then ditch it! It is a hindrance, not a help!

Keep in mind, sometimes hard work does pay off. I hate making lunches. I put it off every week and it kicks me every time. But the weeks I do manage to properly prepare are SO AMAZING. I highly recommend some tough love to get your prep work done. Just keep thinking about how wonderful it will be to not pay for a meal and to have the cooking already done and out of the way.

This is my total for food for the week. Not even $40 for two people. I will admit that a certain fast-food royalty may have made me spend $13, sometimes I just can't help myself. But at the price of $25/person (fast-food included) for a weekly food budget, I'd say we are doing alright!

I think that I only ate a breakfast sandwich twice out of five days. I didn't prep and therefore I didn't eat that food. I don't count this as a bad thing. I now have breakfast for the weekend :)

I did meal prep the pasta, the ground turkey (it was so much cheaper than ground beef!), and the broccoli for lunches.....however, I failed to prepare the cheese sauce. So Cody was nice enough each day to heat up our lunches and sprinkle some cheese on top. Still super tasty!

This was our real weekly menu:

Monday we had fast food.

Tuesday we had alfredo...I forgot to use the sun-dried tomatoes.

Wednesday we had black bean soup, surprisingly flavorful!

Thursday I made the chicken bacon ranch pasta bake-with sun-dried tomatoes.

Friday we had leftover pasta bake & goulash.

Which left us with TWO 2lb boxes of elbow macaroni, 2 cans of tuna, leftover ground turkey, at least 4 bagels, and plenty of American cheese and eggs. I'd say we are good on food for the weekend. And that's why I really enjoy planning my meals for the week. I spent less than $40 and still had extra food. I could have easily spent over $150 if I had no gameplan and just bought what I knew I liked to eat and what I should be eating. If that had been the case our food waste at the end of the week would have been exponential!!!

Food waste was one of the main reasons I started planning weekly meals. I hated that every week I would spend my hard-earned money on fresh fruits and vegetables and then at the end of the week my money would be in the form of rotten food. We didn't utilize our food in ways that would preserve them and we also had too much food for our family size. Not to mention I was buying products that I disliked because they were trending as "health foods". It was a disaster.

Changing from one way of shopping to another takes a long time. It is a change of mindset. A change of lifestyle. It does not happen overnight. It may also not be for everyone, though I personally believe everyone can do it. Planning a weekly menu varies from family to family, and individual to individual. Some people have time to plan every single meal...or maybe if not time then motivation. Others, like me, attempt to prep one or two things a week and outline the remaining meals. The main goal is to organize food habits to save money and prevent wasting food. Organizing meals can also help with curbing 'grazing' habits. I rarely bring junk food into the home anymore. I was a chronic chip eater. One bag lasted one day. Now if I need my salty fix, I make some homemade popcorn with a bit of olive oil and salt. The habit I haven't quite broken yet is my love for desserts. I don't have a sweet tooth, but I do enjoy ice cream and chocolate. Having a little something for dessert is just really really nice and it is something I just can't give up...yet.

If you are new to the meal planning game, here are a couple of tips to get you going and hopefully not feel too overwhelmed.

  1. Plan your meals to have similar ingredients

    1. If you're having a turkey burger, you will probably have leftover olives, cheese, artichokes, or spinach. Plan another meal or two that can use these leftover ingredients. It saves you money and prevents food waste down the line.

  2. Plan your meals & grocery list on a separate day from shopping

    1. While this isn't necessary, I find it helpful. It takes the pressure off of getting everything done in one day.

  3. Shop & Prep on the same day

    1. This is difficult. I come home from shopping and I want to lay on the couch like a lizard person for the rest of the day. BUT, if you do prep on the same day as shopping it is SO helpful. You can divide items to preserve them, i.e. freezing an extra chicken breast, dry out fresh herbs that would otherwise go bad, divide the vegetables up so that you aren't short at the end of the week, put a paper towel in any open leafy vegetable bags so that they don't go bad before you need them, freeze, dry, or pickle anything extra that you don't want to go to waste.

  4. If you are new or "bad" at cooking, start prepping with simple meals

    1. There is no shame in getting two mason jars out, filling one with jelly and the other with peanut butter, and calling your lunches officially prepped. PBJ lunches are THE BEST. Add yogurt, fruit, and veggie snack and you have got yourself a delicious and well-balanced lunch!

  5. Just because you can make something doesn't mean you should.

    1. I re-learn this lesson often. A lot of times if I find myself short on cash at the end of the month I try and convince myself that making certain foods from scratch will be easier than buying them. It isn't. Ramen is hard to make (literally, the dough is so hard it does not want to be rolled out). Bread takes a lot of time and 3 loaves are needed to equal Aldi's $0.85 loaf.

  6. Along the same thought process, buy things that don't require prep work.

    1. Oranges, prepackaged crackers, apples, bananas, individual yogurt containers...make your life easier, not harder!!!

  7. If you don't like eating something, don't buy it.

    1. I don't like brussel sprouts. If I buy them, I may cook them, but I only eat about 2 and then I have to rummage around the kitchen for a midnight snack. Do yourself a favor and just eat the foods you like.

  8. If you are on a budget, don't buy expensive foods.

    1. This may seem obvious. But if you can only spend $100 a week, don't buy things like salmon or steak...especially fresh from the butcher. Similarly, think about opting for generic meats & eggs instead of grass-fed organic. Unless you buy your meat straight from a farm or farmers market it probably isn't actually grass-fed. Labels for the agriculture industry are not as regulated as they should be. If you NEED to have salmon find it in a frozen food section. I know Aldi has some for about $4-6. I guarantee you can find something with the same nutritional value for half the price if you just expand your search.

  9. Buy items in bulk when possible.

    1. Things like rice, quinoa, couscous, popcorn, nuts, dried fruits, butter & spices in bulk. A 20lb bag of rice seems excessive at $17-35...but when a 2lb bag is nearly $5, it basically pays for itself in savings. Try and find a store that has a legitimate bulk section, one where you can fill a bag up with the exact amount you need. If you can find a vegetable bulk section you can also save a lot of money. Buying things like peas or ginger via weight is almost always a fraction of the cost of prepackaged.

  10. Be flexible.

    1. I made a plan to buy mac n cheese for lunch because at $0.33/box it would have only cost me $3.30 for 10 lunches. I got to the store and there were only 2 completely smashed boxes of mac n cheese left. I had to buy a box of regular pasta and an extra package of cheese instead. Sometimes life throws curveballs. Look for deals. Think of how to do things smarter and not harder when possible.

If you give meal prepping a go, leave me a comment! I would love to hear about your experience!

Happy Prepping!

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