14 Day Dinner Plan to Save Money, Eat Better, Waste Less in 5 Simple Steps
So you went to the grocery store and bought a TON of food in preparation to stay at home for at least two weeks during this pandemic COVID-19 crisis.
Now what to do with it all? Nobody wants to run out of food too quickly, be left with just a couple of potatoes and a few stalks of celery for a meal, or have food go to waste because you didn’t eat the “time-sensitive” foods first.
I have 5 steps (and a great downloadable) to create a 14-day dinner plan to maximize what you have on hand.
Being organized with a dinner plan can help alleviate some stress during this time. With so many things unpredictable and unsettling, our meals are one area we can control. It can help save money and keep you from stress eating.
So print off the downloadables, grab a writing utensil, and let’s start planning.
STEP ONE: INVENTORY YOUR FOOD.
Make a list of all the food you have and could use in dinner meals. From the fresh in the refrigerator to the frozen in the freezer to the canned and packaged (avoid the processed) in the pantry.
By those food items...
- Note if you have enough for it to be used in more than one meal. Mark beside the item the number of other times it can be used. For example: bag of carrots x 2
- Place a star by any fruits, vegetables, meats, broths, sauces, etc. that need to be used up the soonest before they go bad. Use the table below to help you determine shelf life of your fresh foods. Meat can be frozen. For example: Star zucchini you have had in the fridge for awhile, an open carton of chicken broth, or container of spring mix.
STEP TWO: LIST DINNER MEALS YOU HAVE PLANNED.
In the center column, list the meals you have already bought or have food for and know you want to make during these two weeks. Also, include any meals you have in the freezer.
Note if you know you will have leftovers for another night, even if just enough for one person. For example: Sheet pan chicken and veggies x 2
Then, cross off the food items on your inventory you will use to make that meal.
STEP THREE: MAKE DINNER MEALS WITH STARRED ITEMS.
Come up with meals using the foods that need to be eaten sooner rather than later. Use the chart above to help you. You can supplement with other food items not as “time sensitive”.
As you use up food items to create meals, cross them off the food list.
These are your pronto meals.
Again, note by these meals if there would be enough for leftovers. For example: Chicken stir fry with broccoli and peppers x 2.
Tips for meal creating, keep it simple, especially if you don’t have an extensive favorite recipe list or don’t cook much. A complete meal includes:
- a vegetable (dark and colorful)
- a protein (i.e. meat, chicken, fish, or beans)
- a good fat (i.e. olive oil, avocado, nuts, or olives)
- and a carb such as starchy vegetables (i.e. potatoes and corn), whole grain (rice, quinoa, or farro), or fruit.
Focus on whole, real foods rather than processed, artificial, and insta-foods.
STEP FOUR: FINISH DINNER OPTIONS.
After using up the time-sensitive food to make meals, use what remains to plan more dinner meals.
Cross off the food you use on your list.
If you plan to go to the store for a quick trip to finish up your menu, you may need to make note of additional ingredients at the bottom of your food list.
STEP FIVE: PLAN OUT YOUR MEALS.
Start with picking out days at the start for the meals containing items that need to be used within the first several days, the pronto meals.
Consider varying your meals. For example, not three nights in a row of beef dishes or two nights in a row of Mexican style food. Unless that is your preference or what you have to do at this time.
Remember to mark any leftover days. Use leftovers up within 5-7 days. If you have several meals that only have enough leftovers for one person, have one big leftover night. Everyone gets to choose (or fight over) their favorite.
Next, pick meals that use fresh ingredients but last a little longer.
Finally, toward the end of those 14 days, plan the meals you have frozen or with ingredients that last the longest.
Each morning, check your dinner list for any items you need to take out of the freezer to thaw for dinner that night.
This may not be the most ideal dinner menu, but remember this is a season when we work with what we’ve got, do our best, and know our efforts are good enough. And far better than a plan with totally unhealthy food or not having a plan at all.
If you haven’t gotten your free 14-day dinner planner downloadable, sign up to get it below. It also includes a video giving more details of the 5 simple steps shared above.
I wish you and your family the healthiest time right now. We got this together!