In several recent conversations lately with some of my younger friends, I have helped strategize how to create a food plan, shopping lists and meal preparation strategies. Meal Planning for one can actually be very satisfying as you will eat better food along with potentially saving money and time. Saving time and money is a great motivator. With the rapidly rising cost of eating out, meal planning and meal prepping are seeing a renewed popularity.
Many of my younger friends are either doing college, graduate school, military, bouncing into new careers and simply living on their own. Several of my adult children are in the middle of creating food planning that suits their single lifestyle. Food continues to be a significant part of their budget. Some see their food costs rising monthly. Eating out adds up. Others are concerned about the quality of food they consume when eating out. Some just want to enjoy a fuller meal created when they make their meals from home. Many voiced concerns about the desire to eat healthier. Regardless of the motivation, many are giving their weekly food situation a hard look. I think you can eat better food, spend less money and time in the kitchen and just enjoy an overall more relaxed lifestyle by applying some of these meal planning ideas. When recently asked to write out these meal planning ideas, I agreed.
For my young friends, you know who you are, here are my best thoughts and several FREE downloads to help you create the food you will love.
1. Determine what food you would like to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Build out these four categories. Think about your schedule. If you are in a rushed in the mornings, plan something that is a grab and go. Or create something like a parfait or quiche that is put together the night before. This allows you to sit and enjoy your food without spending early morning time prepping. Create a winning plan for your mornings by preparing ahead and eating and drinking what you like best. For example, if you like quiche and you love oatmeal, bake a quiche for four of your mornings and overnight oatmeal for the other mornings. The breakfasts in one week can be two great ideas repeated or rotated. Quiche can be made in a regular pie pan or in a fun cupcake pan for individual portions. Quiche in individual size bits can also be frozen for a quick out of the freezer meal or snack. Several highly successful coffee stores sell bit size quiche for quite a profit. To organize your personal meal plan, check out this free meal planning download. Identify seven mornings, seven lunches, seven dinners and a variety of snacks for the next seven days.
2. Work through your list of proposed meals and snacks. Identify what you already have in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry. Create a plan based on what you find. Build a shopping list with this free download. As you are setting this up, establish a working pantry with essential non-perishables. This type of preparation ensures that you will have what you need weekly. You save money when you buy larger portions of things like flour, sugar and rice. As you jump into the rhythm of meal planning, you will start by looking at what you already have to make a plan for the week ahead. Using the food you already have limits food waste and lowers your overall food cost.
3. Decide when and how you are going to buy your food. You may want to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Or you may want to most of your planning, shopping and preparation on Sunday. Determine what food you would like to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Build out these four categories. Think about your schedule. If you are in a rushed in the mornings, plan something that is a grab and go. Or create something like a parfait or quiche that is put together the night before. This allows you to sit and enjoy your food without spending early morning time prepping.
Create a winning plan for your mornings by preparing ahead and eating and drinking what you like best. For example, if you like quiche and you love oatmeal, bake a quiche for four of your mornings and overnight oatmeal for the other mornings. The breakfasts in one week can be two great ideas repeated or rotated. Quiche can be made in a regular pie pan or in a fun cupcake pan for individual portions. Quiche in individual size bits can also be frozen for a quick out of the freezer meal or snack. Several highly successful coffee stores sell bit size quiche for quite a profit. To organize your personal meal plan, check out this free meal planning download.
Identify seven mornings, seven lunches, seven dinners and a variety of snacks for the next seven days. Since you are planning this for your week with the assumption that you are working and or going to school, identify a time where you can gather your food. Let’s say that you have time on the weekend to shop and prepare food. Here is a possible scenario: Saturday, you wander down to the farmer’s market when it is warm or your best produce source inside in the winter. You select local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Locate the meat you need according to your plan. Fill in the rest from your current inventory or local grocery source.
Build a pick up or grocery list for your selected grocery store for Sunday on the way home from church. If you know what you like and some of the items are at various stores, strategize a plan. You may want to visit some stores once a month, while your main store needs a pick up each week.
4. Bulk cook. This is not hard, but it just takes some planning. The biggest motivation for a burst of energy and activity in the kitchen is that you do it once thus eliminating the cooking and cleaning for all of the meals you just prepared. I say that this is a great plan if you are feeling lazy or if you are starving when you walk in the door from class or work. Or if you like to get off work early because you only needed to take half hour for lunch. Some people frantically drive to pick up lunch, eat it in the way back to their afternoon. They are frustrated because they are rushed and lunch continuers to cost more. If you are preparing your food ahead, you need to carve out a time to bulk cook. Sunday afternoon has been a favorite time to bulk cook in our family group.
5. Select containers that meet your goals. Your container needs might be dependent on whether you are working from home, making a long commute to work or keeping your food in a cooler. For example, you might want to buy disposable cups for parfaits or smoothies if you plan to take them with you. We use plastic, reusable, three sectioned containers for my husband’s work meals. He does not refrigerate this container most days as he transports it because he drives 30 minutes to work and puts it directly into the refrigerator. Think about your needs. One of my daughters needed a lunch box with a shoulder strap because she carried her backpack and a messenger bag along with her lunch bag from the parking garage to her work.
Planning does take time, but it ultimately saves you time and money. Shopping for food without a plan usually means you will spend more money and need to come back for more groceries more often. Once you have two to three working weekly plans, you can begin to repeat them. This eliminates creating a unique plan each week while ensuring variety. Do what works for you. Keep it simple. Use easy recipes or meals to establish a routine. Preparing your dinners for the week is so awesome because you come home to dinner ready to eat. Plus you do not have dishes from preparing a meal. It is a win-win!
In closing, here are a few of my favorite ideas for meals when cooking for one:
- Quiche with fruit or muffin or toast
- Overnight oatmeal
- Parfaits – from the bottom up in layers – granola, yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit
- Cold cereal
- Eggs/ Breakfast Meat/ Avocado Toast
- Boiled Eggs/ Toast or Muffin
- Meat/ Carb/ Vegetable (Chicken/Potatoes/Broccoli)
- Soup/ Salad
- Soup/ Sandwich
- Bento Lunches (Look it up. There are literally millions of combinations. Create your favorite.)
- Salad with Meat
- Salad in a Jar (We like to take these in our coolers or prepare them for the week ahead. They are good for 3-4 days before eating.)
- Smoothie (Our family has enjoyed smoothies almost daily for the last 20 years. Most of them include crushed ice, water or milk or almond milk, protein powder and frozen fruit. One of our all time favorites is ice, liquid, chocolate protein powder, banana and peanut butter. Other add ins might be cottage cheese, collagen, flax seeds or powder, honey, ginger, coconut and a world of other yummy ingredients.)
- Trail Mix
- Protein Bars
- Beef Jerky
- Cut Veggies
So, start planning a brand new lifestyle with your favorite foods. Create a customized list. Think of all the time and money you will be saving!! If this is a new idea to you and you decide to try these suggestions, let me know!! I LOVE to hear from our readers! Reading notes from you is one of the best parts of my week!!