What’s for dinner? That’s a good question. When I lived in Florida it was fun to go grocery shopping because I could go to Publix, “where shopping is a pleasure”, but since moving to North Carolina shopping has become a chore.
Since I don’t enjoy going to Walmart and Ingles every few days or even once a week I started going grocery shopping once every two weeks and making the trek (30 min drive) to Clayton where there is a Super Ingles which is much nicer, bigger and has a starbucks inside as well as getting gas that is 20 cents cheaper and going to their Walmart which is also bigger and slightly better. This way, I get more organic choices and a treat for the drive and it is done for two weeks (hopefully).
I’ve been shopping this way for over a year now and have pretty much perfected the system.
Before I started shopping biweekly I made a main list of all the dinners I make on a regular basis and some just occasionally. It was a pretty long list! These things included spaghetti, meatloaf, lasagna, chinese and the dishes uniquely ours. This list is on paper and stays on my fridge when not in use. I also have a bookmark on my browser for recipes and an additional board for recipes on Pinterest that I recently started (and is more for desserts). The bookmarked recipes are the wacky ones; Vegetarian recipes I’d like to try, recipes with strange ingredients that I have to have the recipe on hand to make and desserts.
I begin my shopping list by going through my paper list and choosing as many dinners as I can from that. I usually get about six to begin with. It’s hard to decide sometimes what you’ll eat a week or a week and a half from now, so I’ll choose a couple of things I’m not excited about, but we haven’t had in a while and throw easy dinners like soup and grilled cheese and pizza on there. Quick and easy for busy nights like dance class or nights I hope Jason will make dinner.
I break my dinner list down like this:
- 6 dinners I know we love
- 2 new recipes to try
- 2-3 quick and easy dinners
This gives me 10-11 meals. As I am shopping, I may see something on sale and get inspired to make something not on my list giving me one more meal. I leave myself room in the week for leftovers and eating out. You can buy 14 meals for the 14 days, but in my experience a few meals won’t get made and then you’ll have wasted money and time and inflated your grocery budget. You’ll probably have to experiment to find what works for you. For example; some people eat out more, so can shop less.
Occasionally I am just so uninspired (or pregnant) that I can barely get a list of 7-9 dinners. I’ll go with that and set aside extra money to pick up a couple more dinners to get us through the second week. I rarely do this if I can help it, but making myself shop for the whole two weeks usually has me running to the store for things I forgot or ignoring the dinner list completely. Cut yourself some slack some weeks, you’ll get back on track and might feel refreshed from the time off.
Here are some ways to stay inspired:
- Subscribe to a food blog or blog that posts sometimes about food
- Browse Pinterest
- Swap recipes or dinner lists with a friend
- Hunt for new recipes
We can get stuck in a rut or a genre of food at times. Seeing beautifully made recipes on Pinterest, for example, might inspire a dinner idea. I recently started swapping dinner lists for the week (or two) with my friend who lives in Portland and it was inspiring to see what she feeds her family regularly because sometimes what she sees as a normal staple I haven’t thought to make or make that way. When I’m flat out hunting for new recipes I will occasionally stumble upon a site that is a conglomerate of recipes.
Here are a few sites I’ve found helpful:
When making your list for a week or two don’t forget to add the regular items you must get; milk, eggs, bread etc. This will show you what you are actually buying and give you a clue to what you might spend. I know that if I go over a page in my notebook, I’m in trouble. I also plan to make at least one dessert in this time period. It seems to me if you don’t plan for that you end up running out again and spending more money. We’re trying to avoid that. However, sometimes things happen. My fridge likes to freeze my produce, so that when I pull out vegetables they’re frozen and unusable and I have to change gears mid-dinner. I know this, so I try to make the veggie heavy dinners first. We may also say the heck with it and go out to eat a couple of more times than usual. Freeze your meat and you’ll have meals for the next week ready to go. If you find yourself saying the heck with it consistently every week, you know you can adjust your meal planning accordingly and stop feeling guilty about it.
For all you Publix shoppers: Publix sales are the way to go for food planning. I would take a look at the sale paper online and choose the meals that go along with the items on sale. This may not help you make a two week plan, but that may not be your goal. This doesn’t work for me here in NC, because the sales suck-to be frank. That means I don’t have to worry about this step, but it also means I may spend a little more than you might. I usually spend $300 for two weeks ($150 per week) of food for 4 1/2 people. Being pregnant my portion size has increased, so that I’m rivaling Jason’s, no small feat. I only tell you this in case you are wondering how much I spend and to show that two weeks of food isn’t going to be more than you might spend in a week. I also buy organic when I can (for the food practices and to avoid citric acid or additives) and ethically treated meat products, so I pay more for those items.
I hope this helps your meal planning! I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas that have helped you become a better planner.
Here are some links to a few dinners I make regularly to help you get started.
This is what I tried last week and am trying this week:
Making a point to try new things once a week keeps things interesting and your family on their toes while also improving your skills in the kitchen.
I keep the dinner list for the two weeks on a separate sheet and leave it up on my fridge. When it comes time to start dinner, I just pick one. This leaves room for me to make stuff I enjoy instead of making tacos on Tuesday night as planned. You could map out the weeks if you would rather not have to pick and choose daily, it’s up to you. Happy planning!