“Excel”ling at Meal Planning

During the first six years of my marriage (before children), going grocery shopping was done only as often as necessary to survive. It could be pushed to three to four weeks between shopping trips. This is arguably the worst method unless your grocery goal is to waste money, food, and time. However, my family grew and needs changed, so my routine required the same. I needed more fresh fruits and vegetables, to be cost efficient, and throw out less food. Below are the 3 changes I made:

Weekly Shopping Trips
Since incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet was a priority, this decision was a no-brainer. To no one’s surprise, I was throwing out less food because I was only buying what I needed for the week. The unexpected benefits were things like becoming more aware of what produce was in season and when, and rotating what I bought (except bananas… my kids go bananas over them and they are on my list every week). And this task/chore/headache that used to be pushed off until our cupboards resembled old Mother Hubbard’s, hasn’t been so bad. In fact, I enjoy it (and that doesn’t have anything to do with it being the only consistent alone time I get on the weekends).

Planning Ahead
In order to be cost efficient on my weekly shopping trips, I have to plan ahead. And by planning ahead, I mean writing a list that I intend to stick to. I bury any spontaneity deep down inside and stick to the list. Instead of Master Kenobi’s words echoing in Luke’s mind to use the force, he tells me to stick to the list.
Unless I see that pint of lemon cookie ice cream or macadamia milk, then screw the list. Before going to the store, I’ll write down the things I need to get weekly (bananas, veggies, milk, shredded cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese, and of course, cream cheese). Then I’ll do a quick inventory on what basic items
may be needed (bread, rice, cereal, eggs). The most laborious part of planning ahead is deciding what will be for dinner. I may choose a meal based on what I want, on what ingredients I need to use or what’s on sale/has a coupon. Once the decision is made, I just need to add the required ingredients to my list, and voilà my list is complete.

Excel Spreadsheet
I have some of those classic cookbooks that you get when you do your wedding registry, a Pinterest board for food, and also receive daily emails with new recipes. So it was not surprising with so many formats, I was having a hard time remembering what was where when it came to my planning. So my “Meal Planner” was the byproduct of my administrative office background and organizational obsessiveness. I created an excel spreadsheet with all of the recipes I’d collected over the years and pull it up on my iPad. The first tab is the “Planner” with meal ideas. When you click on the recipe you want, it takes you to the ingredients and directions for that meal. So that’s how I easily make my shopping list for the week. I can then click the “Home Page” cell within the recipe tab to take me back to the
“Planner” tab. I can easily delete a meal from my planner if it is a tested “failure” and add anything great I found on Pinterest.

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