I am, admittedly, the worst about waiting until 4:00 in the afternoon to go to the grocery store and get a dinner plan together. When I wait until the last minute, I'm battling crowds at the store and then end up cooking way later than I would like because I don't start as early as I could if I already had the ingredients on hand. After we found out I was pregnant, I started making the effort to have healthy dinners each night and do my meal planning on the weekends so I wouldn't be scrambling in the evenings. This little bit of extra effort has made a huge difference in the quality of our meals, the amount of money we spend at the grocery store, and my stress level around dinner time, so I thought I'd share my little system with you in case anyone else could make use of it.
At some point during the weekend, usually on Sunday afternoon, I count up the number of nights we will be eating dinner at home and use my iPhone to find a recipe or recipes online for each dinner. Sometimes I search Pinterest for something like, "healthy meals for pregnancy," but I've found on Pinterest you see a lot of the same recipe over and over, so I also use plain old Google as well. As I find recipes, I screenshot the ingredient list and steps for cooking on my phone. Thank goodness for screenshotting! This way I don't have to worry about writing the recipes down, emailing them to myself, or anything like that. I just have them in the picture library on my phone that I can easily access while cooking.
Next, I pull out one of my trusty legal pads (Am I the only one who has these things all over my house?) and write out an ingredient list for the grocery store. I divide this list up by days so I can use it for reference later regarding which meal I want to cook which night. Over the weeks, as I've built up my collection of spices, flours, oils, etc., these lists have begun to consist of mostly just fresh produce and herbs, meat (sometimes - we usually have at least one vegetarian meal a week), and quinoa, noodles, or other sides to have with our entrees. So, even though I've had to make the investment in some different spices and oils, I'm saving money now by just having to buy a few (healthy!) ingredients per meal. And if I'm using chicken a couple nights during the week, I can buy the big pack of tenderloins that only costs $5-$7.
I typically head to the grocery store on my own on Sunday evening because the Mister hates shopping. Even though I'd love for him to join me, I do sometimes enjoy the time on my own to concentrate and feel prepared for the week ahead. Even though this trip is usually between $100-$150 once I include our weekly incidentals and all the snacks I need to get through the days as a pregnant lady, it's far cheaper than it would be for me to go to the grocery store every night and spend $30-$50 on whatever caught my eye.
And that's it! I use the screenshots on my phone and my master list each night. The Mister lets me know when he's on the way home from work - his commute is about forty minutes so that gives me just enough time to prepare dinner. We feel good about the meals we're eating (and feeding our growing baby secondhand), and there is something so nice about opening up the fridge and knowing it's stocked for the whole week with healthy choices. Not to mention there are usually leftovers for me to have the next day for lunch, so I get to enjoy the benefits twice.
We were out of town this whole weekend, which meant I didn't get to follow my usual meal planning method, and I'm definitely feeling the effects! I think we're going to use a coupon for a restaurant nearby tonight. Gotta go out every once in a while, right? I'm looking forward to getting my act together again this weekend. : )