Get Organized for the Week Ahead to Save Time & Money

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Are you ready for the new week? What’s the status of your kitchen? Take these easy steps to get organized for the week ahead so you can eat well and save time and money.

Get Organized for the Week Ahead | Good Cheap Eats

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

With the new week beginning, now’s a great time to do a little prep work in the kitchen. In just an hour or two, you can get organized for the days ahead and set yourself up for success — to eat well without losing your wallet or spending endless hours in the kitchen!

Meal planning, prep, and execution doesn’t have to be burdensome or tiresome. You just need a few easy strategies to get you started in the right direction.

Whether you’re looking to get simple, whole foods meals on the table or following a special diet like a Whole 30, that prep work can pay off in big dividends throughout the week, including “hanger management.”

Get Organized for the Week Ahead to Save Time & Money

1. Tidy up the kitchen.

Have you checked the status of your fridge, freezer, and cupboards? Are they due for a big clean out? While it’s not always the most fun task, doing a quick tidy makes a huge difference in your kitchen’s performance.

Dump out what’s old, straighten what’s out of place, and wipe things down. Not only will you know what you have for meal planning, but it will also be easier to find all the ingredients when you need them.

2. Plan out your meals.

Now’s the time to plan some meals. Don’t let the idea of a week intimidate you. If that seems scary, plan just three dinners to serve this week.

In your clean sweep, you’ll probably take a mental inventory of what you have on hand. Those ingredients are the building blocks of this week’s meal planning. What meals can you make with what you already have on hand?

Using up whatcha got means you spend less time and money at the store.

Make a list of meals you can make with what’s in the kitchen already. Or at least meals that you’ve already got a start on. Maybe you’ve got beans, rice, and taco shells. That’s the start of a meal!

The Print & Go Planner

Once you’ve jotted those down those meals to make, create a list of the missing ingredients. For instance, if you’ve got those beans, rice, and taco shells, make a note to pick up some ground beef and a block of cheese at the store for a taco night.

Find out what else you need to make your meals for the next few days and add those to your grocery list.

(If you’re just not feeling the meal planning mojo, let me do it for you. Check out my which meal plans I have available here.)

3. Hit the store.

Head to the grocery store and pick up those things you need to round out your meal plan. (Pro tip: the stores will be less crowded early in the morning.)

Once home, it should be easy to put things away since you already cleaned the kitchen cupboards and fridge. Do it right away so you don’t have to think about it…. except leave out the items that you can prep ahead right now.

4. Do some fast chopping.

If you’ve planned your meals, you’ll have an idea of what can be prepped ahead of time. Look over the ingredients list of your recipes. Is there anything you’ll need to chop, shred, slice, or dice?

Having cheese shredded, onions chopped, and peppers sliced, meals can come together quickly and easily without a lot of hassle or washing of cutting boards.

Get Organized for the Week Ahead | Good Cheap Eats

5. Make a meal to stash in the fridge.

What can you make ahead of time for packing to school, work, or your table at home? Whether at work, home, or play, it is so nice to pull a pre-prepped salad out of the fridge and just sit down to eat! Think about your favorite pasta salad or your favorite bean salad. Having that already to go in the fridge will help you out in a pinch, particularly when the siren song of take-out is beckoning you.

These are all great meals to pack ahead:

So, you’re all set! Once you do this for a few weeks, you’ll find that eating at home is easier, cheaper, and tastier. It will make cooking fun and simple!

BONUS: Avoid the drive-thru and daily grocery stops.

Just a little organization at the start of the week can really help you in the coming days. It might seem like work, but honestly, it’s not. You’ll avoid the drive-thru, won’t find yourself at the grocery store every single day (!), and you’ll enjoy fresh meals whenever you want them.

If you need more help on the prep side of things, please check out my series of ready-to-go meal plans. I’ve crafted it to help you be organized for the week ahead without a lot of hassle.

Each meal plan includes 30 recipes, 4 weeks of meal plans, and all the grocery lists, prep-ahead tips, and instruction that you need to eat well, spend less, and enjoy the good life. It’s basically a cheat sheet for you to get organized for the week ahead.

Do any of these tasks seem easy or hard for you?

Let’s chat in the comments.

Get Organized for the Week Ahead | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Where do you get those salad containers?

  2. Janet says:

    You are so right! A little prep on the weekend makes the rest of the week so much easier. This morning I put dough for rolls in the bread machine; Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker; and chicken breasts in the oven. While the machines were doing their work, I washed, sliced, diced and peeled a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. I have a couple dozen ½ cup plastic food containers. I stock these with prepped fruit and veggies on Sunday for lunchboxes the rest of the week.

  3. Stephanie M. says:

    I saw your salads and thought that we eat a lot of those too and so does our youngest daughter who just moved back home so while I was out in the grocery store today, I picked up six Rubbermaid round salad containers and came home and set up an assembly line. I also hard boiled seven eggs that can additionally be used in the salads. Now I have two salads for hubby, two for daughter, and two for me for during this week. I also cooked two packages of baby portabello mushrooms to be combined during the week with fresh baby spinach that I purchased for white omelets that daughter and I like. I also purchased a small pork loin boneless roast on sale for $1.59/lb. It was 2.31 lbs. and it cost me just $3.67. With this roast, I am going to cook it during the week and slice and freeze the slices in a freezer bag to use for sandwiches since I am trying to limit the amount of deli meat that I buy. I do the same with turkey breasts and eye rounds; meatloaf too. Prep work has saved me so much time in the kitchen. Just about one month ago, I spent all day making a large variety of breakfast foods for the freezer so I would not have to do this in the morning for hubby. I made, pancakes, French toast, breakfast casserole (cut into squares), breakfast bowls, Irish Soda Bread and raisin bran muffins. That was one month ago, and I’m done with the muffins; I have one more breakfast bowl, 2 more breakfast casserole squares. 2 more pancakes, several slices of Irish Soda bread, and two more slices of French Toast. Making all of this took me a whole day in the kitchen but I’m in the second month and hubby’s still eating from that.

    • Heather M says:

      oh my gosh, Stephanie, you’re amazing!! Inspiring for sure!! I need to start doing this for sandwich meat. Also, I owe you an email. Life just moves so quickly!! 🙂

      • Stephanie M. says:

        Hi Heather!! So very happy to hear from you. And I realize how quickly times moves and how busy we all are. I decided to try and limit the amount of cold cuts that I buy. I’m not giving them up completely but I’m trying to make sandwiches out of meat that I make myself. I just started buying the butterball turkey breasts. They’re wrapped in yellow netting and sitting next to all the other turkeys in the meat section. They are “real” meat not processed. I roast one in the oven for about 2 hours, let cool and then slice into thin slices and wrap each slice individually in plastic wrap and put all the wrapped slices in a freezer bag. When I make a sandwich for Paul, I just pull out the amount of slices I need and that’s that. I do the same thing with eye round roast beef and when I make a meatloaf, I make two; one for dinner and leftovers the next day and with the other one, I slice that and freeze and use when I want to. I also bought some thin chicken cutlets which I bread and fry and then make a nice sandwich for Paul with some bacon slices, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing. All of this adds up to good sandwiches without all the processed meat. But, like you, I need my tuna fish so I always have that on hand. LOL

    • Your lists always sound so yummy!

  4. Molly says:

    I recently added chicken and fish into my diet, per my doctor, after being a vegetarian for 15 years. Raw chicken is quite intimidating to me – any advice for beginners? This is an entirely new set of eating rules for me. Thanks!

    • Susan says:

      Hi Molly,
      the fastest way that I cook chicken is either cut up in bite-sized pieces before it goes in the pan (add to salads, wraps, casseroles, or stir frys) or in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes on each side. If you are really desperate, you can try starting out with canned chicken or a roasted chicken from the grocery store! Good luck!

      • Molly says:

        I didn’t know I could microwave chicken to cook it completely. Thanks!

    • Alice E says:

      I bake chicken thighs in the oven for about an hour at 350. I sprinkle them with seasoned salt and or herbs first. I also like to just poach chicken, bone it and chop it up for casseroles and soups and such. You could shred it, but I personally prefer it diced. There are also recipes for breading and oven frying, but I don’t usually bother with that. You can dice or slice it raw and then stir fry it for a different texture. This is very good, but I don’t usually bother.

      Just remember to wash you hands and any utensils, cutting boards or whatever came in contact with the raw chicken well with hot water and soap. This is one reason I like to poach or bake chicken, I don’t have as much to clean up. I keep a spray bottle of vinegar handy for cleaning counters and such.

      • Molly says:

        What do you poach it in? Would that make it bland?

        • Alice E says:

          Maybe, I do it so often I don’t think about it. I use water, although broth would work. Then I add and onion, carrots. celery and a bay leaf. Sometimes I add other herbs, such as thyme or sage and I frequently add garlic. These are what I normally add any time I am cooking meat or making stock. You don’t need too much water, just enough to cover the meat. I’m usually using it in salads or casseroles and they usually have a dressing or sauce to add flavor as well.

          I use the term poach, because you really want to keep the temperature at a slow simmer, and not let it boil, although I do usually bring it up to a boil and then back it off as a safety thing. I also cheat and use disposable gloves frequently when handling raw meat, I bought some of the thin ones like they use at some delis.

          Good luck as you explore this new facet of cooking.

        • Here’s how to poach chicken: https://goodcheapeats.com/2018/03/perfectly-poached-chicken-instant-pot/ Jazz it up with a sauce or spice mix.

    • Hi Molly! I guess the internet ate my comment. My apologies! I had asked if you were wanting to know about boneless or bone-in chicken? They are two different types of cooking as well as different pricing. Plus, some people really don’t like to deal with the bones. We’ll get you set up.

      • Molly says:

        BoneLESS – I am not ready for bone-in! I have some ready to eat chicken from trader joes that I’ve been using, and this week I bought my first bag of frozen chicken breasts.

    • Becky Y says:

      Hi Molly. The only meat my 17YO daughter willing eats is chicken. I suggest putting a boneless breast in a large ziploc-style bag (don’t seal the bag) with a tiny bit of water (keeps it from sticking) and pounding it until it’s basically the same thickness all over. This will make it easier to cook completely until you get the hang of it. Sprinkle with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (my fav for everything) or your favorite seasoning blend (fajita, blackened, etc). Pan fry in a non-stick pan with a bit of olive oil or butter (or a mix of both) over medium heat until it’s golden on both sides and the juices run clear when you stick it with a fork, maybe 5 -6 minutes per side. With the cooked chicken you can: slice and put on a salad; eat as an entree with bell peppers & onions (pan fry with the same seasonings used on the chicken) & rice; dice & cool and use later for a chicken, cheddar, pepper & onion quiche; cut into strips & use in a chicken wrap; put on a bun/long roll for a sandwich.

  5. Lisa says:

    My biggest challenge is that I’m a vegetarian (that eats light/healthy) and my family is my husband and 2 college age sons that like to EAT, and my husband needs a lower protein/potassium diet.
    I TRY to meal plan, etc we seem to do ok for breakfast and lunch, but I would like the boys (men?!) not to drive thru so much.
    Sadly we ALL have champagne taste and a beer budget…….

  6. Pat says:

    I do most all of these things. I cook double meals and freeze one. I cut up all my onions and celery at the time of purchase and freeze in 1 cup portions. I freeze them flat so they thaw quickly. I boil a dozen eggs at a time and use them for salads and snacks.My husband takes his lunch everyday and I usually pack 3 or 4 at a time and always have a couple in the freezer. It’s just my husband and I and he isn’t picky but I do ask what he would like to have and then make the meal plan.

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