Who here loves how long it takes to try and look through recipes, find something your family will eat, then make a grocery list? Ok, the three of you can just stop reading.
Meal planning and list-making always felt like such a time sink. It used to take me a minimum of 2 hours each weekend. First, I would have to search around various recipe websites to try and find something that was 1) quick, 2) healthy and 3) my husband, toddler and I would all want to eat.
Once I finally found that one needle in a haystack, I’d have to rinse and repeat at least four more times to get just five meals for the week.
Then I’d have to compile it all into a grocery list, and add in other items like snacks and lunches. At least two hours, gone. And I hadn’t even gotten to the grocery store yet, let alone actually cooked a meal. Such a chore!
And don’t even think about trying to do this with a toddler in the same room!
My little one will go to enormous lengths to get her sticky-little hands on anything with a screen. Once I tried to look for just one recipe when I was home alone with her–disaster. She fought to get up into my lap, cried if I wouldn’t let her, then wouldn’t stop reaching for the mouse and the keyboard. I had to start asking my husband to take her to the park just to figure out what we were going to eat that week.
What’s worse than meal planning?
Grocery shopping without a plan is way worse.
We’ve all been there, too. You think you know exactly what you need for a recipe. You make your way around the store (doubling back a few times because you realized you needed an avocado or spaghetti sauce while you were in the dairy isle).
Then, when you get home you’re missing key ingredients for all your meals. So you still end up ordering takeout while the zucchinis rot in the back corner of the fridge, only to be thrown out next week.
Not only did you waste a bunch of money on food that you now won’t eat (a sin!), but you spent valuable time buying that wasted food. So while I hated meal planning and grocery-list making, it was definitely worse to just wing it.
What about a Master List?
The funny thing is, we eat the same meals each week or two, and we buy 90% of the same stuff each week. A grocery list would seem like the perfect thing to automate: if you can make just one “master list” and use it over and over again, the return on your time is huge. Do it once, and you never have to do it again!
It doesn’t work out that way. I have tried. Even if you eat the exact same thing every week, your grocery list is not the same. You have leftover lemons one week, and not another. You don’t need to buy sugar or flour each week, but if you run out…you’re stuck making a last-minute dash to the store–right?
And the 10% of items that are unique week-to-week are the downfall of the reusable list. It takes just as much time to add and subtract from that list as it does to make a new one. Plus–though we’re creatures of habit, we just don’t want to eat the exact same thing each week. We’re just crazy enough to love the idea of making the ultimate week-long meal plan optimized for price, health and taste…and it has to be different from last week.
Now, we’ve tried subscription meal planning services. I particularly love Prepdish, which sends a meal plan, shopping list and instructions for a 2-hour prep on the weekend. If you can give over control of your menu to someone else, it can be a great solution and I highly recommend them. My husband and I still wanted control over the actual meals, however, and we did need to add our staples, snacks and other meals to the provided list.
We’ve tried those meal-kit boxes, but again, we still had to make a list and go to the store, and since the recipes were a little more complex than we would choose for ourselves, so it wasn’t a long-term solution.
So while there are other solutions that might work well for some, I still wanted to be in the driver’s seat when it came to selecting the food my family was going to eat. I imagine if you have allergies or special dietary needs, you might feel the same.
Automation: How I do it
So I was so excited when I figured out how to automate this process while still allowing for the variation in week-to-week purchases. It now takes me under 5 minutes to make a grocery list for the week! That’s two hours of my life, each weekend, that I can take back. Two hours to have fun with my family, exercise, work on my blog, read a book, take a nap…you get the picture.
I’ve created a video to show you how I do it–Get it here. Even better: I’m letting you download my board which contains some of my favorite recipes to get you started, so you can make your list in 5 minutes this weekend! You don’t even have to enter any recipes–they’re all quick (less than 25 minutes), healthy meals that my family enjoys. Best of all, it’s easy to add in your family favorites so that you can make it yours.
Here’s to saving 2 hours this weekend, and every weekend from now on!