There are lots and lots of ways you can plan your meals. But they basically boil down to two basic methods. I call them ‘Backward Meal Planning‘ and ‘Forward Meal Planning‘. Which one you use depends on your what you’re trying to accomplish with meal planning.
If you’re just getting started and don’t know where or how to begin, knowing the difference between these two methods will help you find your way.
Backward Meal Planning
Backward Meal Planning is when you plan your meals based on the ingredients you already have on hand. This meal planning method uses what’s called ‘shopping your pantry’. That’s when you go to your pantry, fridge, and freezer and make a meal using what you already have.
Backward Meal Planning is taking that idea to your whole meal plan. You take stock of your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator and plan your meals based on the food you’ve already purchased.
Backward Meal Planning works best when you’ve got a good stock on hand. But how do you know what to buy to stock your pantry, etc. if you don’t have a meal plan? You make your grocery shopping list based on sales, coupons, rebates, etc. and maximize the amount you can get for your money. This can be a huge money saver!
Depending on your budget, it can take a few weeks to get a good pantry and freezer stock, so you might do a hybrid of Backward & Forward Meal Planning for a bit.
Forward Meal Planning
Forward Meal Planning is a more traditional approach. That’s when you plan your meals, then make your grocery list based on what meals you plan to make. You can still save money by taking ads and coupons into account when you plan meals.
Forward Meal Planning gives you much more flexibility and can be faster since you don’t have to take inventory of food on hand. If you’re goal with meal planning is to save time, to try new foods and recipes, or a combination of those, this is a great way to plan your meals.
What’s Your Purpose?
So, you see why knowing your purpose for meal planning is so helpful? If you’re brand new to meal planning, or if you’ve struggled with meal planning in the past, I strongly encourage you to really explore and understand what you’re hoping to gain or accomplish with meal planning. My post, Start With Why, will help you do just that.