Meal Prep & Grocery Shopping Tips that Will Actually Make Your Life Easier

Does this sound like you? Exhausted, rushing to the grocery store after work with no shopping list or a real plan for dinner? How many times have you wandered around the store, grabbing anything that looks good, and ended up spending more money than you’d planned?

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to make the entire meal planning and grocery shopping experience so much simpler.

When you start meal prepping (getting a full week of meals ready in a few simple steps), you can say “buh-bye” to those overwhelming evenings and “hellllooo” to a lot more free time. If you’re not sure you can carve out enough time to make all those meals ahead of time, it might feel impossible even to begin. If you’re used to stopping by the grocery store every time you head home from work, won’t it be overwhelming to fill an entire cart?

With these easy steps, it won’t be.

Read on for simple tips so you can make your next trip to the grocery store manageable, productive… and even enjoyable. By knowing what essential ingredients you need, you’ll have the entire shopping process streamlined in no time.

meal planning tips

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Ease Your Way Into Meal Prepping

Meal prepping is all about saving you time, so it’s best to start slow. You’ll immediately see the benefits by easing into meal prep, and you can slowly add more recipes and meals into your plans as you get more familiar with the system. Before you know it, you’ll be skipping those extra trips to the supermarket and saying goodbye to the days when your only dinner options were the fast food restaurants on your way home.

Start with the Basics

There are a few staples you’ll always need to keep on hand for easy meals. With rice, eggs, flour, oatmeal, and a few essential spices, you’ll be able to walk into your kitchen and have all you need for almost every meal on your menu.

If you pick up some frozen chicken and an assortment of veggies, you’ll be even more prepared to create simple, easy, healthy meals for the whole family. This favorite local shopping planner will help you  keep track of where you find the best things. You can also subscribe for free to the vault and get instant access to the entire printables library right here. 

Keep a Balanced Diet in Mind

When you’re planning out your meals, make sure they’re balanced and include a mix of meat, vegetables, fruit, and dairy products.

And here’s a bonus: if you have any leftovers after you’ve shopped for the week and prepared all the ingredients for your meals, you can include them in your meal plans for next week! It’s that much easier to figure out what recipes you should plan for in the future and saves you time and money while avoiding waste.

Make Your Lists Ahead of Time

Step 1: Decide what meals you’re going to make this week.

Step 2: Create a list of ingredients you need for each of those meals.

If a whole week’s worth of groceries is overwhelming, you might want to start out by listing the ingredients for a few meals you’ll have during the week, or only the ingredients you’d need for lunch, for example.

Plan for Everyone Who is Eating

While you’re planning out your meals, make sure you include any special events, dietary needs, or special guests who might be joining you for your meals. (If you know you’ll be dining out with friends, for example, don’t prepare anything for that dinner!)

If any of your family members or guests have dietary restrictions or preferences, take those into account while putting your grocery list together. This will save you from rummaging around in the fridge, hoping the soy milk you bought a few weeks ago is still good. By including them in your plans, you’re instantly a more gracious, considerate host. And it won’t take up any extra time!

When you have more mouths to feed at the table, you’d better have more food to feed them. If you’re planning for house guests, you’re going to need more food purchased, prepared, and served. By meal prepping, this extra work is streamlined right with your weekly prep work and only adds a couple of minutes, tops.

Use Online Resources

To further ease your grocery shopping experience, print out one of the many “grocery list” templates online and use it to organize your shopping list before you ever step foot in the store. Like my blank template that you can use to organize your meals:

Online Calendars – Budget

If you’re planning meals on a budget, or with specific fitness goals in mind, check online for different planning calendars and forms. There are tons of handy resources out there that include calorie counters, nutrition calculators, and other tips for dividing your meals into healthy portions, so everything you need to prep for your weekly meals is all in one place.

Organize Your Trip By Aisles

If you can, organize your grocery list in the order, you walk around the store, aisle by aisle. You’ll save time and get everything without having to backtrack.
If you search online, you can find a variety of online templates that divide grocery lists by produce, deli, frozen items, and others.

Organize Your Fridge and Pantry Ahead of Time

By taking the time to organize your pantry, freezer, and fridge, unloading will become a quick and efficient step in your meal prep process.

You’re already purchasing groceries by category, so why get them all mixed up in a chaotic kitchen? By unpacking your groceries by category as well, you’ll save time.

Before you leave for the store (or, while you’re waiting for your groceries to be delivered), take a minute to prep your fridge and pantry so you can unload everything without taking any extra time. Trust me, this will be much easier before you fill your kitchen counters with groceries!

I put together a quick 15-minute cleaning routine if you need a place to start.

Buy in Bulk

Especially if you’re on a budget, you’ll save money and time in the long run if you buy a lot more of one ingredient in bulk, or while it’s on sale.

Be careful to purchase only items that will last longer, like dry or frozen ingredients.

Divide the ingredients so you can store them quickly, then use as needed. As you go forward, you can even include more recipes that use this item since you’ll already have it on hand.

Try New Things

Don’t be afraid to mix things up! Just because you’re keeping your meals simple doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Have a little fun with your next shopping trip by planning for a fun new recipe, or maybe a few fresh spices or other ingredients you’ve never cooked with before.

Sure, you’re not going to like everything you try, but who knows–you might just discover a new favorite.

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