Meal planning is an important part of the grocery shopping experience because you are planning your meals for the week, answering the nightly question of what’s for dinner. In the process, you are finding recipes to try, creating your shopping list and using up food in your refrigerator and pantry to reduce food waste.
How to Meal Plan
Shop your pantry, refrigerator and freezer first
Having a well-stocked pantry is the first key to meal planning. Browse through your pantry and make a mental note of what you have on hand for preparing a complete meal. You may find that you have 10 boxes of pasta that need to be used up, so plan a meal around a baked pasta dish for the week. It’s also important to take stock of any fruits, vegetables, and meats in your refrigerator that may be nearing the end of their shelf life and incorporate those items into a meal.
Plan your meals around the fresh sale items at the grocery store
Know how many meals you need to prepare and how much food you need to buy. If you are planning just for dinners, then you need to know how many nights you plan to cook, eat leftovers, go out to dinner, etc.
Not everything on sale can make a meal, so focus on fresh meat and produce deals to make a meal. By planning four to five dinners around sale meat, seafood and produce ingredients, you are instantly saving 30 – 40% because these items are heavily discounted to drive traffic into the store.
Browse the Safeway Weekly Ad to see the best deals on meat, seafood and produce. Those are typically on the front and back pages of the weekly ad. Use the Safeway sale and coupon matchup post that is organized by aisle so you always know the best deals to help plan your meals.
Write down the meals and stick to your plan
Look ahead at your calendar and plan your meals around your schedule. If your child has a basketball game on Tuesday and you know you’ll need something quick and easy, make a note of that. Plan for longer cooking meals or complex recipes on a weekend or a night that you have the time to prepare it. It’s easy to download a calendar template online, or use an excel spreadsheet calendar template and just write the dinners you plan to make for the week. Once you have your meals written down, you can quickly write down your shopping list and include additional grocery items or ingredients you need to prepare the meals.
Get the whole household involved in meal planning by asking your spouse, children, roommate what they would like to eat this week so that everyone is on the same page about what’s for dinner each night.
Use online tools to meal plan
Find recipes online or in cookbooks based on the sale ingredients you want to use. You can either print, pin, or use apps to aggregate the ingredients into your shopping list.
The Safeway website has a recipe database and adds ingredients directly to your shopping list when you “shop the recipe”. With one click, you can add all the ingredients for the meal to your list and order for delivery or store pick up.
Plan for leftovers
I like to plan for leftovers for lunches, but also every few days I take a quick inventory of the leftover situation and if I have too many leftovers that won’t be eaten, I have a leftovers night, or I try to re-purpose the leftovers into a new meal. I read that American’s throw away close to 50% of the food they buy. That’s a lot of wasted food and wasted money. So, don’t be rigid to the calendar, rather be flexible and try to reuse as much as possible in planning your weekly meals.
Meal planning can take 10 minutes or less each week and if you make it a regular part of your weekly schedule then you will start to see your food bills decline and also food waste decline because you’ll have a plan that you can follow to feed your family healthy meals.
What other tips or tricks do you use for meal planning? Let us know in the comments below.
image credits: Getty Images
SuperSafeway is a blog devoted to helping you find the best deals at Safeway in the Denver division. Every week we slice and dice the ad and tell you the best deals at Safeway with and without coupons. For more low prices, check out Super Safeway’s weekly ad coupon matchup page. Want to stay updated on the best deals? If so, make sure to like Super Safeway on Facebook, join our Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and subscribe to our newsletter.
* Please note – Savings information is based on Colorado pricing and the Safeway Coupon Policy for the Denver Division which includes Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota. Your market may vary. *