Save More and Waste Less by Meal Planning

Keeping a neat home is not just about having your books in line, keeping your toys in order and having countertops void of clutter. It’s about keeping your life and habits organized as well.

Keeping an organized life can save you time, money and stress. One thing I’ve found that helps me in all three of these areas is meal planning.

The life of grocery shopping every day, or doing a monthly shopping binge with everything I might possibly need are not for me. Both of these methods cause me to spend more money than necessary, and end up with a lot of wasted food and time.

Today I’m sharing with you how I’ve honed my weekly meal planning routine to save more and waste less!

Save More and Waste Less by Meal Planning

1. Create a system. The first step in successful meal planning is creating a system that works for you. By system, I mean a way to write down and capture your meal plan for the week, as well as your shopping list.  I use the Notes app on my iPhone to keep a list of meals for the week so I always have it with me on the go. A good paper and pen combo works just as well. I do my shopping at Wegmans, and their shopping list app is amazing! It allows you to add exact items to your shopping list and sorts them by aisle, which helps me zip through the store with no time to waste! If you like a digital list, there are tons of great shopping list apps. And of course the paper and pen method works great here as well. If you need some motivation, here are some cute meal planning note pads to get you started:

Rifle Paper Co. Farm Fresh Weekly Meal Planning Pad via Anthropologie ($15)
The Forest Feast Meal Planner and Shopping List via Domino ($14.99)
What To Eat Pad via World Market ($6.99)

2. Inventory, inventory, inventory. I can’t stress the importance of this step enough! How many times have you bought something at the store only to return home and find that it was in your pantry all along? Or realizing that chicken in the freezer was probably only good until last week? My first step in meal planning each week is to take a look through my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what I already have on hand. I pay close attention to anything that might be getting close to its expiration date so I can be sure to use it before it goes to waste!

3. Plan your meals & reduce waste. This is the fun part! I base my meal plan for the week on many things – weather (if it’s cold we love soup, if it’s nice out we love to grill), our schedules (will I have time to spend an hour cooking, or do I need something under 30 minutes), and especially reducing waste! These are the steps you can take to reduce how much food you throw away:

Use what you have: For dinner, I always start by choosing meals based on my inventory paying close attention to foods that are close to their expiration date. I try to integrate as much as possible from what I already have. Sometimes this gets me one dinner, sometimes up to three or four. Then, I start filling in the gaps with other recipes.

Split ingredients: I also keep in mind what some of the new ingredients I’ll be buying are and how to make sure they don’t go to waste. For example, if a recipe I’m making calls for half an onion, I think about choosing another recipe for later in the week that will use the other half.

Eat leftovers for lunch: After planning dinners, next up is lunch. I always try to choose recipes that make more than what we need for dinner, so we can eat the leftovers the next day. If I don’t have enough dinners to cover all the lunches, I decide if there are other lunch items I need to buy (i.e. bread and lunch meat for sandwiches, salad fix-ins, etc.).

Remake leftovers into new meals: Throwing away perfectly good food from dinner is a horrible habit! If you don’t like eating the same meal over again, think about ways you can reuse what you have to create a new recipe. Got some extra rotisserie chicken? Use it to make fajitas. Got leftover salad? Roll it up in a tortilla and now you’ve got a wrap.

Next up is breakfast. In our house it’s pretty simple – we’ll have a smoothie or some yogurt with granola. But even if your breakfast routine is simple too – write it down. It will help make sure you don’t overbuy.

4. Make your shopping list and get shopping. Once you have all your meals planned out, make yourself a list. They key here is sticking to your list! Don’t be tempted to grab random items here and there throughout the store. The cost of those items add up, and if they aren’t in your meal plan they will likely go to waste. When possible, buy bulk vs. packaged foods. By doing this, you have the ability to buy the exact amount that you need, reducing the need to worry about waste and reducing the amount of packaging you have to toss!

And of course, of course of course…invest in reusable shopping bags!  Not only does it keep you from using plastic, but you can fit much more in a reusable bag than a plastic one. This way you can leave the store with an easily manageable four bags, instead of 30 little plastic ones! Here are some cute options:

Elephant Reusable Bag via TJ Maxx ($.99)
Baggu Reusable Poppy Tote via Shoptiques ($9)
Kate Spade New York ‘Polka Dot’ Reusable Shopping Tote via Nordstrom ($16)

What other tips do you have for meal planning? 

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