If you’re anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping. Once I get over the initial dread of actually getting in the car, list in hand, earbuds playing good tunes, I’m good to go. I jam out, crossing things off as I place them in my cart. I love picking out bunches of cilantro for pico, this week’s flavor of yogurt, and a special treat to surprise my husband with.
But then, I realize I forgot a critical ingredient while I’m making the third meal of the week (that I chose to make the day of).
Have you ever tried to substitute baking soda for baking powder? Or tried to make pizza dough without butter? Or settled for evaporated milk instead of greek yogurt?
*shamefully nods along* Yep it was gross, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
I love cooking, but I hate picking out what I’m going to cook and planning ahead to have the ingredients on hand. A large part of stress around newlywed cooking involved simply not knowing what my mature-palleted (aka picky eater) husband wanted. I don’t have hours to prepare fancy meals like we enjoy creating together on the weekends, but as a wife, I want to serve my husband well with good food to eat. I had no idea where to start when it came to meal planning for two!
That’s why I created this simple, easy, Most Flexible Meal Planner Ever. Follow along with the three easy steps below to put an end to those meal-planning blues.
Step One: List Out Your Faves
I sat down with my husband Silas and listed twenty recipes that we both enjoyed, and wouldn’t mind eating on a regular basis. You may have twenty as well, or maybe you’re starting out with fifteen, or perhaps you’re more on top of things and can list out twenty for each season of the year. Whatever you decide, list them out, and make sure they’re recipes that are manageable to make (meaning it doesn’t only turn out every 7 times you make it and the other 6 you’re left ordering delivery) and delicious to you both.
Step Two: Categorize Into Like Groups
This next step gets a little trickier. It’s all in how you like to organize. I don’t like people telling me how to organize, but it’s something I naturally enjoy. If you’re feeling stuck, try categorizing based on what you think flows well (I personally wouldn’t want to eat too many heavy meals in a row!), group based on similar ingredients (use that produce before it goes bad!), or make groups with an equal mix of quick and time-consuming recipes. Get your highlighters handy, and create groups with an even amount of recipes.
Step Three: Create a Quick Cheat Sheet
This is where you’ll really see the time savings come to life. For each group, write the list of meal options, and the necessary ingredients below. Then, you’ll pick one group, and finish cooking all of the recipes in that group before moving on to the next one – even if it spills into the next week! (Or am I the only one who makes way too much for leftovers three nights a week?)
When you’re jotting down your grocery list you can glance at this week’s group for what you need, instead of looking up each individual recipe (or worse, forgetting the key essential ingredient that happens to be on that one side of the store you otherwise never visit).
Does this sound like a super flexible, manageable way to meal plan? Not only will your spouse get input on what’s for dinner, you’ll get your sanity back, and not waste your time and money on extra trips to that place with the blinking fluorescent lights and frigid aisles.