Buying groceries (and using them all!) to make 90% of your meals at home results in major money saving and healthier eating, but it does require planning. Although I don’t think it’s a ‘one-size-fits-all’ sort of thing, below is the template Greg and I follow consistently, in case any of the elements appeal to you and make sense for your life 🙂
My process for meal planning (and really everything) goes like this:
- I make a plan (first draft).
- I try it out.
- I pay attention while I’m trying it out to assess what is working, what isn’t working, and why.
- I modify the plan to make it work better for me.
- I repeat steps 2-4.
Even the best-intentioned plans won’t work if they aren’t realistic for your life. For example, maybe you decide you want to eat healthier and you stock your fridge with groceries on the weekend. But are you reallyyy going to want to make a big dinner on Monday night after a late staff meeting followed by a workout class? Or are you going to want to pick up something fast on the way home?
When it comes to planning, I know I’m no superhero. I expect to get tired, to get “hangry” and to want to choose the easiest option – so, instead of expecting myself to be unreasonably disciplined, I make my plans with honest self-knowledge in mind. If I don’t follow through, I assume it’s because the plan wasn’t realistic in the first place. With this mindset, I can focus my energy on improving the plan instead of beating myself up.
So this is the template we’ve been working with for the past few years. It’s easy for us to follow because we really only make 3 “food decisions” each week and the rest of our grocery shopping is on auto-pilot. It also prevents us from throwing food away.
Our 3 Weekly Food Decisions…
- Pick an “involved dinner”
- Pick an “easy dinner”
- Pick a snack
In terms of choosing what to make, I usually flip through the Oh She Glows Every Day (OSG) cookbook and pick whatever looks good, or Greg will say something like, “I’ve really been craving chili.”
Even when I had a 9am-5pm job, this is the format we followed. We made “food decisions” and a grocery list on Fridays, shopped on Saturdays, and meal prepped on Sundays. The only difference was that I made and packed my lunches/snacks for the week on Sundays. (If this applies to you, check out my “Whole Lotta Lunch” series.)
*NOTE: I’m not a nutritionist so I’m definitely not trying to recommend here “what” to eat, but more how to “plan what you eat.” That said, if you are informed about nutrition etc., I would be happy to receive some tips! This is just what we like. 🙂
Here is a typical week – the numbers indicate how many days per week we will eat each meal:
- Oatmeal (x3)
- Chia seed pudding/overnight oats (x1)
- Pancakes (x2)
- Turkey bacon, eggs, and toast (x1)
- Green smoothie + piece of avocado toast with lemon (x4)
- Kale and quinoa salad (x3) OR Pita wrap with turkey, tuna, or chickpea curry + sprouts
AFTERNOON SNACK – I love experimenting with new snack recipes and usually bake something on Sundays, This week I made OSG’s strawberry oat crumble bars, and last week I made carrot apple muffins. Here are some of our other go-to’s:
- Classic Glo Bars from OSG’s
- Energy bites – http://healthyhipster.ca/?s=cinnamon+bun+energy
- Brown rice cake with nut butter
- Carrots and hummus (easiest if the carrots are already peeled and cut up, in water in the fridge)
- Raw almonds and/or an apple
- ½ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and granola
*And I typically have herbal tea mid-afternoon. I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s ginger turmeric tea. Or, if I feel like I’m coming down with something, I’ll put 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey into boiling water.
- “Involved Dinner” (x3) = On Sunday, we typically make something a bit more involved that will last for 3 dinners (this means 6 servings since there are two of us). Some examples would include: soup + toasted pita and hummus, curry, chili, falafel with tabbouleh, etc. Here are some of our favorite OSG’s recipes:
- “Easy Dinner” (x2) = On Wednesdays, we make something super easy to prep. Usually baked salmon, something in the slow cooker, or veggie burgers + kale chips or broccoli + roasted sweet potatoes.
And then we go out with friends or order take-out on most Friday/Saturday nights.
- Something delicious from OSG’s (like freezer fudge or macaroons – so good!)
- Piece of dark chocolate
- Blended frozen banana with mini dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup warm almond milk with cinnamon, turmeric, and honey
Using the above, creating a grocery list is pretty straightforward. Most of it is on auto-pilot (i.e. the breakfasts, the smoothie ingredients, and most of the snack stuff). Then we just need to make our “3 food decisions” for the week and add the required ingredients to the list. Badda boom, badda bing!
In terms of buying “the right” amount of ingredients, I look at the grocery list and write next to each perishable item what it will be used for. (For example, next to spinach I could write “smoothies and curry.” To me that would represent 1 large bag or 2 small bags. Next to broccoli it might say “easy dinner,” so I would envision me and Greg eating that meal for 2 nights, and think about how much broccoli we would want on the side. When Greg is away and I’m cooking for one, everything is the same except that I make smaller amounts (or freeze the extra).
Below are the “recipes” for the meals I mentioned above that aren’t from the OSG’s cookbook…
- Oatmeal – boil 1 ¾ cup water and add 1 cup of dry quick oats. Our most common topping combos are:
- Chopped dates, nut butter, coconut flakes, cinnamon
- Raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, maple syrup
- Blueberries, fresh lemon juice, and honey
- Pancakes – these are our two favorite versions:
- 1) Banana Pancakes = 1 mashed banana, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup oat flour and 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
- 2) Whole Grain Pancakes = Bob’s 10 grain mix (1 cup of mix, just add eggs, water, oil, and we usually add blueberries as well)
*With both versions, we top with nut butter, fresh berries, coconut flakes, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Green Smoothie = For the two of us, we put the following into our Vitamix:
- 1 frozen banana
- 3 cups spinach
- 1 cup almond milk and 1 cup water
- ½ cup frozen blueberries and ½ cup frozen strawberries
- Optional: ½ avocado, 1 tablespoon hemp hearts, scoop of protein powder. I also love the OSG’s “Green Monster” and “Satiety Smoothie” recipes.
- Big Salad:
- Base: Quinoa = 1 cup dry
- Greens: Kale (chop into small pieces, massage with a little oil to soften) = 2 bunches
- Protein: Tofu or tempeh or chickpeas = 1 pack or can
- Roasted/Steamed Vegetables (choose at least 2): Sweet potato, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, beets = Ex: 1 head of broccoli and 1 sweet potato
- Toppings: Sliced avocado, sprouts, sunflower seeds, sauerkraut
- Dressing: Lemon-tahini, cilantro-lime, or hummus
Phew! That was a lot more complicated to write out than it is to “do” in real life, but I hope it was helpful if you are interested in making more food at home 🙂
Thanks for reading and please feel free to reach out if you have any comments or questions!