Welcome back to Meal Planning 101! If you missed Part One or Part Two, follow the links to get caught up and then join us back here for Step Three: Shopping and Preparing Your Ingredients for the Week.
In step one, you took an inventory of the ingredients you already had in your freezer and pantry. In step two, you examined your week and chose your recipes. Now it’s time for step three: shopping and preparing your ingredient for the week.
After you create your meal plan list, check the ingredients that you will need for the recipes you chose for the week. Create your shopping list by listing out any necessary ingredients that you don’t already have on hand. Also, think about how you can recreate leftovers for lunches and snacks during the week as you are shopping (for example, if you are making a chicken dish, you might want to buy some lettuce and veggies to make a salad that you can top with chicken for your lunch the next day).
I also make sure to shop for healthy snack options like fruit and nuts.
Here’s what my basic shopping list looks like every week (this is what I buy every single week, no matter what my meal plan looks like):
- Salad greens
- Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
- Snack size boxed raisins
- Larabars (these are fruit and nut bars that I use for emergency snacks or an occasional quick breakfast bar)
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Orange juice
- Bottled water
Now, I’ll add the ingredients that I need to complete the meals for my meal plan.
- Sausage (for my Octoberfest Sausage Soup that I’m making on Monday)
- Octoberfest Beer (for the soup)
- Beef broth (also for soup)
- Basil (for my Pesto sauce on Wednesday)
- Arugula (for Pesto)
- A couple lemons (also for the Pesto)
- Flour tortillas (to make tacos for Jeff on Thursday)
Now that I have my list, I’ll check the online store ads to see what is on sale and stock up on sale items for my freezer and pantry.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who can get $100 of groceries for $5 by usin coupons, but I’ve never been that good at it. However, I do use a couple of money and time saving apps when I’m doing my shopping. Check out the following apps to help you shop smarter.
- Target Cartwheel App – This app allows you to select coupons for specific items when you shop at Target. I usually save a couple dollars on each shopping trip by using this app. I love it because it has a built in scanner in the app so you can scan the product barcode and it will tell you if there are any deals on that product.
- Ibotta – This app gives you cash back for buying groceries. I use this one all the time. In the past year, I have earned over $100 back on my normal grocery purchases. Getting your cash out is super easy, too. Once you earn $20, you can just transfer it to your PayPal account. If you don’t already have an Ibotta account, you can follow the link above to join my team and start saving on your next grocery trip!
- Walmart Grocery Pickup – I used this app for the first time last week and it is a game changer! It makes grocery shopping so easy. You just create an account, make your list, and set your pickup time. Then, you drive to the store, check in on the app when you get there, park in one of the designated pickup parking locations, and a Walmart associate brings your groceries out to your car and loads them for you. It is the easiest way to buy groceries, and it helps me save money because I’m not browsing and adding unnecessary items to my shopping cart.
When I get home from shopping, I take a few extra minutes as I am putting away my groceries to prepare ingredients for the week so that cooking is easier on busy nights. If there is anything that can be made a few days ahead (like my Pesto sauce for Wednesday’s meal or a marinade), I’ll go ahead and make those things.
I also prepare snacks for the week. For example, I’ll wash my grapes and strawberries and put them in snack sized portions in ziploc bags. I do the same thing with carrots and cucumber slices, pretzels, and trail mix. That way, I have some quick and easy snacks to add to our lunch boxes or toss in my bag when I need a snack on the go.
I also take this time to clean out and organize my fridge for the week. I’ll group ingredients together in the fridge by meal so it’s easy to grab everything when I start cooking, and if I have things that I have made ahead, I label and date everything. That way, everything is ready to go and all I have to do during the week is just grab my ingredients and start cooking.
Our meal planning weekend is almost over, but don’t forget to check back tomorrow when I’ll be talking about stretching your meals by using leftovers!