Cooking for Two – Meal Planning on a Budget
When I was visiting posts from September’s Monthly Goals party, one of the bloggers mentioned that she wanted to start meal-planning,but didn’t really know where to start. Anchor in the Stratosphere is a new blog to me, but it looks like she’s cooking for just her and her husband. Planning and cooking for two can be tricky, which made me think about my meal planning strategy.
The Mister and I try to eat based on what’s in season and what we have fresh from the garden. We prefer to make from scratch when it’s not too inconvenient. We also have very full schedules. There’s jujitsu two nights a week, and I’m taking golf lessons and serve on two executive boards. Most nights, dinner needs to be healthy, fast and simple.
The Mister eats the same thing for breakfast nearly every morning, and for lunch we usually either take leftovers or take a sandwich, fruit and chips. So for us, meal planning really comes down to planning dinner.
I try to grocery shop once a week. I like Saturday mornings because the grocery store isn’t too crowded, and most of the departments at my store receive a truck that morning so we don’t run into them being out of items. (This is important since I meal plan based on what’s on sale.)
Here are my top ten tips for meal planning and grocery shopping for two:
1. If it’s a Brown Box Veggies weekend, then what we’re receiving in produce will pretty much dictate what meals we’re making. The stuff that ripens the fastest has to be used up first. We got corn, tomatoes and bell peppers this week, so white chicken chili is on the menu.
2. Before shopping, I take stock of what’s in the cabinets, fridge and freezer. Between the veggie box and what’s already in the cabinet, I know about half of the week’s dinners already.
3. I spend a little time online looking at what’s on sale; I like to use Southern Savers since it matches coupons up to my grocery stores’ flyers. Except for a few items, I buy my brands based on what’s on sale. Even if I don’t have a single coupon, if I know what’s on sale before I enter the store, I nearly always save 25-30% on my groceries. Since we shop once a week, we know to stock up when a favorite brand goes on sale.
4. I ALWAYS make a grocery list. If I go to the store without a list, I will forget something important and come home with things we already have.
5. A lot of people do this differently, but I shop mainly at one grocery store. It makes it easier for me to determine when a sale price is a good one since I’m familiar with the regular prices. I know the layout, and most of the employees know me (or at least my face). If there is a killer deal at a competing store, I’ll stop for that one item, but I don’t run all over town looking for the lowest prices.
6. We have designated nights for specific meals. Not every night, but knowing that one-two night’s meals are the same every week makes things simpler. Wednesday night, I know we’re having dinner with his mom. Friday night is pizza night.
7. For two people, you cannot beat a rotisserie chicken. I buy one every single week. We’ll use it to make 3-4 meals each week. And to that note, we don’t eat a lot of meat at home. Most of the time, it’s just luncheon meat, the rotisserie and maybe ground turkey if I’m making chili.
8. The week goes a lot easier when we do as much prep work as we can over the weekend. We pick the chicken and chop most of the veggies on Sunday afternoon.
9. I save new recipes for the weekend, and I try to limit new recipes to just one-two per week. It works out easier since I have more time in case something doesn’t go as expected.
10. It’s okay to deviate from the plan. Sometimes, we just have a killer day and don’t feel like cooking. Since I usually only plan four-five meals anyway, we can be flexible for those nights when meeting up with the Mister’s parents or having tomato sandwiches just suits us better. And sometimes, you just gotta let your favorite bartender make a you drink.
With all of that, what does a typical meal plan look like for us? Here’s what’s on the menu this week:
Sunday – Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Roast Brussels Sprouts
Monday – Salad with Chicken
Tuesday – White Chicken Chili
Wednesday – Dinner with the Mister’s Mom
Thursday – Spaghetti with Zucchini
Friday – Pizza Night!
What are your meal planning tips? Does your family have a designated meal night?