Creating a menu is the next logical step in starting your meal prepping journey. What style of prepping did you want to stick with? Will you be batch cooking throughout the week, to help cut down on prep time? Weekly prepping? Monthly? If you haven’t checked out the previous post on why you should be meal prepping, you can check it out here, and you can get a little background on what type of meal prepping can be best for you. This can dictate a little how you proceed from here. Either way, it all ends with food ready for your family to eat at the drop of a hat with nearly no effort for you. Nothing that I’m telling you is set in stone but is merely a guide to help you down the path.
Check your local circulars
If your first thought is “dang, homework?” then sorry, boss. If saving money is your thing (and it should be everyone’s thing), this is the first step. Check grocery stores that have BOGO deals or XX for XX deals. If couponing is also your thing, know the rules for each grocery store and even ask them if they have doubling coupon days or have a preference for when you come in to use them. Couponing is a lot of extra work, though, so I only suggest it if the venture brings you some kind of joy. Make a note of everything that your family likes and where the sales are. This can help you save a lot of money in the long run.
Rummage your pantry
It all comes down to knowing what you have and what you usually buy. This isn’t about coming up with new recipes that need 10 different ingredients that you don’t have or won’t use again. You might want to stick to meals that you know your family will enjoy. Although, if nutrition is your aim, you can find ways to integrate more vegetable or leaner protein, you are free to do so. It’s for you to decide what you think is best. The purpose of meal prepping is to make things easier, not more difficult. Decide what you’ll use up and what you’ll buy from the store.
Write out your menu
In my bullet journal, I have a section in my monthly spreads to create a dinner schedule. I’d rather spend 1 day a month tethered to my kitchen to avoid cooking dinner for between 15 and 20 nights out of the month, whichever my freezer dictates. I make a list of 15 meals (inevitably I get enough to double a batch or two) and get to work. For the day, I jot down what the meal is, what can be prepped and what can’t.
Many of the recipes I can recite by heart so my menu can be done relatively quickly. For your first few times, it can be irritating and sometimes rather slow, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’ll get more comfortable and become second nature. You can even reuse monthly menus. Enough time has generally gone by that repeating a meal won’t be too problematic. Whatever makes the meal prepping planning phase easiest for you is what you should go with.
Make your grocery list — prices optional
Once you’ve made your menu — it doesn’t matter the length — you’ll want to create a full list of groceries. Again, if you decide to recycle your menu, you can print out the grocery list and laminate it, allowing you to use it repeatedly. Depending on how neurotic you are (I am very much so), you’ll want to list the prices alongside the list. That way, you can see the total cost of each meal, and you can replace the menu items that are too expensive or find cheaper alternatives.
Now, let’s go shopping! This part is so self-explanatory, I don’t need to tell you a thing. Your circulars will tell you where you need to go to get the best bang for your buck and your menu will keep you focused on your goal. (I would treat myself to forbidden treats, like a chocolate bar or soda if I managed only to get what was on the list. It helped out a lot for me and cut costs on getting extra things that we didn’t need. Try it out.)
From here, the final part is to get everything organized, your meal prep day planned, and getting everything appropriately stored! We’ll tackle this last phase in the next and final post in this series. Before you know it, we’ll get you prepping in no time at all!