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July 05, 2022
We recently returned from a long trip and the house felt pretty empty of food. However, I wanted to see what we had on hand before I went to the grocery store so I used these handy meal planning worksheets.
It turns out that I had a number of meals I could make without spending a dime! Here's my method for taking a pantry and freezer inventory and using it for meal planning. It's so simple, you can do it too! It's a great way to use what you have on hand which saves money and reduces food waste.
The first step is to take an inventory of items in your freezer, pantry and fridge that need to be used up or can be incorporated into recipes for a meal plan. I like to divide my list into sections to make it easier to see what I have on hand.
I have a section for proteins, leftovers, produce, and other expiring items, as well as a catch-all section. These lists help me see what I have to work with, and think how I can put them together.
The next step is to make a list of what I can make with ingredients on hand. It's often the case that I need one or two things to make a meal complete so I like to have a second column in my worksheet to jot down items I need to purchase at the store. This helps me start a shopping list that will be productive and contribute to meals.
For example I might have all the ingredients to make spaghetti, but I need parmesan cheese or garlic bread to round it out. I might be able to make pulled pork sandwiches but need coleslaw for the side.
The third step is to transfer the items to buy for the meals onto a shopping list. I can also add to the list things we are out of or items we need to restock in our pantry.
When I do the inventory in step one I typically find grocery items that we are low on. As I create my meal plan in step two, I always check the recipes to ensure I have everything I need. If not, then the missing items make it onto the shopping list.
The last step is to take the meals from step two and put them on the menu for the week. When creating the menu, think of the activities or appointments you have so that meals that take longer to prepare are on nights when you have more time. I also like to prioritize the meals with ingredients that are perishable or have expiring items.
For example, if my lettuce is on its last leg, I like to make a meal using it up before I make a meal with frozen veggies or pantry staples. This way I can reduce food waste. I also like to leave my meal plan or my list meals on the refrigerator so I can see it when I'm ready to cook.
That's it! Using this simple method and the worksheets will save you money because you won't buy things as the store you don't need. It will also save you time because you will have a list of meals you can make and a menu when it comes time to cook up dinner.
These meal planning worksheets are available as a free download HERE. If you try these out, drop a comment below. We would love to know how they work for you!
You might consider incorporating some recipes into your meal plan that can be stored or poured from a mason jar. You can find our archive HERE.
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