I find the clean slate of the new year to be a good time to re-access our eating choices and get us back on track to a healthier lifestyle. So I thought I would spend some time today sharing how I meal plan and grocery shop for our family. It's not overly complex and we try to watch our budget in regards to this so if you're looking for something affordable and fairly easy I think you may find this helpful.
For me a big part of planning means I have my reliable "standbys," recipes that I can make without a recipe card and can grocery shop for with my eyes closed. A big one is chili but I'll compile a list below of several that I go to time after time. We also do all of the "big" meals on Sunday as we have more time for food prep that way. I grocery shop on Fridays and during the week I'll pick up fresh produce from farmer's markets depending on the season.
I'm more of a "little bit of this, pinch of that" cook thanks to my mum so I mainly use cookbooks for inspiration, unless we're talking about baking. The recipes I pull from cookbooks are "special meals" that I'll cook mostly on the weekend or perhaps one weeknight dinner. Usually I don't have time to fuss with ingredients and reading recipes but it is something I enjoy very much when I do have the time, so when I get to indulge in a new recipe it's like a treat.
So, back to grocery shopping. I will break it down for you by stores. We shop at Costco about once every two or three months and that is where we will get things like protein, pasta, butter, bulk produce or fruit and some dry goods that we eat often like oatmeal or pancake mix. Then once every two weeks I got to Aldi which is where I get whatever produce I can't find at the farmer's market. This varies by season but my favorites to get there are - grapes, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, celery, lemons and limes and occasionally berries. Just a little tip about Aldi - I have tried so many different groceries stores but nobody can beat the taste and value of grapes and sweet potatoes that Aldi has, I've never had a bad one! Next, I get the rest of our staples weekly at a supermarket and/or farmer's markets. I'm talking about stuff like milk, eggs, greens, beverages, cheese, fruit and whatever else we need that week.
Once I have the food that I need I start planning, first in my head and then I write it down. Since Sundays are our bulk cooking days we will usually do something in the slow cooker or grill all of our protein for the week. Sunday night is also when I prepare the dough for the bread I will bake monday morning that we will then have for the week as well as whatever sweet treat I'm making. We don't buy sweets or cookies or anything like that because of the high sugar content and all that other stuff I can't understand on the label. Instead I will make something at home. More often than not it's banana nut bread since we seem to always have some mealy bananas on hand. Other things that I make are muffins or if I'm feeling fancy - a cake. Monday is when I bake our bread and usually prepare another big meal - a casserole, lasagna or enchiladas because I know come wednesday I am not going to be in the mood. What this means is that by Tuesday our fridge is brimming with food that is ready to heat up and eat and that makes life so much easier!
I thought I would give you a weekly breakdown of our meals below to give you some ideas of what it could look like:
And as promised here are some of our favorite meals (the links are for recipes) to make:
- vegetarian chili
- pasta and homemade sauce
- pasta and meatballs
- grilled chicken and coconut lime rice
- vegetable lentil soup
- charcuterie board
- baked lemon butter tilapia
Sticking to this plan has helped us practically eliminate eating out as a family. Now we reserve it for date nights or an occasional weekend treat. But most days we are eating at home three times a day and in addition to saving money it's nice to know it's doing wonders for our health too!