I have been meal planning and prepping consistently for a few years now. I thought it was time to share my tips, routine and typical grocery list with you! Keep reading for more. . .
My typical meal planning routine is to decide on a meal or two that I want for the upcoming week and Google a recipe. I will look through a few, decide on a couple and then write out a list of ingredients that I will need to get. I email the recipes to myself so I don't lose them in the meantime, because I cannot tell you how many times I find a recipe once and then lose it into the ether.
An average week for me is usually overnight oats for breakfast, some kind of grain + veggie bowl for lunch and a hearty salad for dinner. Lately, I have been doing berries for dessert but sometimes I make protein mug cake. I have all of my grocery needs in my Notepad on my iPhone, and erase the items as I place them in my buggy. (Fun cultural fact: a buggy is what West Virginians call a shopping cart)
I diversify my shopping options. I don't buy everything all at once, necessarily. And I don't do all my shopping at one store. Convenient? No. Cost effective? Yes. Aldi doesn't carry the specialty or bulk items that I need, but Kroger and Whole Foods do.
- Biggest number one tip is to visit the grocery store on Sunday morning if it fits your schedule. There is nothing I detest more than trying to get my shopping done in a sea of humans. Sunday mornings are peaceful and typically very well-stocked.
- BYOB, baby! Obviously, I recommend bringing your own bags and opting out of plastic. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, it takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill because the bags don't break down completely.
- Shop at Aldi and/or your local farmers market. Aldi is my bank account life saver and the farmers market often has cheap, organic and in-season items. The farmers market produce might not be "certified" organic, but it oftentimes is organic. Just ask, they will know!
- Try to shop for produce that is currently in season. This will keep the cost lower! I don't always follow this rule because sometimes ya girl just wants some fresh berries in the dead of winter. But most frozen fruit is a great alternate when you just don't want to pay for out-of-season prices.
- Buy in bulk when you can! This is one of my favorite ways to save money when it comes to grocery items.
- Get familiar with your shopping options. Make it a point to visit your local grocers and some that maybe aren't so local if you think they have better specials or items that are cheaper. For example, there is not a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in all of West Virginia (I know, girl, I know) so when I travel out of state, I make sure to bring empty bags and a cooler so I can shop before returning home.
Be mindful of how much food your household needs. This may mean you will experience a learning curve where you buy too much or too little food. You definitely don't want food to go to waste, so I always prefer needing to make a small run before the weekend if we need a couple of items to last us until our regular trip on Sunday mornings. If you do find that you have too much food, I would suggest getting creative and throwing it into the Crockpot for a "cleaning out the fridge" meal. Honestly, these are sometimes the best tasting and most fun to make!