Nicole Pierson wanted to flip the narrative when it came to meal planning and grocery shopping, so the former educator launched an Instagram microblog to offer readers and followers tips to make life healthier, easier and more cost effective.
“I have heard so many of my friends and acquaintances say that they can never have a clean house, save money, live debt free or cook homemade meals for their family,” she says. “I deeply believe that life, even with a young busy family, does not have to be so chaotic.”
Pierson lives in the area with her husband, Todd, and young sons, and she’s put her words into action with Full Fridge Friday, which includes menu planning, grocery shopping and meal prepping for the week ahead—all on Thursday and Friday. “I was finding myself spending hours on Sunday [doing all those tasks],” she says. “I wanted my weekends back for family time and knew there had to be a better way ... I decided to move my whole process to Thursday and Friday for the week ahead, and it was a great success. I have received great feedback that this is working for others, as well.”
Pierson relishes the plan’s upside. “Implementing Full Fridge Friday has deeply benefited our family,” she says. “If it’s on our meal plan, I know I’ll have the ingredients ready to go in the fridge. This eliminates the conversation of, ‘What’s for dinner?’” With a plan in place, the family also avoids unplanned dinners out, which helps the family budget.
Eliminating excessive food waste is also important. “Our food waste is nearly zero at this point,” Pierson says. “If I do have any remaining produce from the previous week, I make sure to incorporate it into my meals for the upcoming week.” She admits to previously tossing out a fair amount of food. “We would have good intentions to eat produce or meat, but it would be forgotten and, eventually, thrown away.”
Another advantage includes ridding the need to hit up the grocery store more than once a week. “It wasn’t uncommon for us to go to the grocery store two or three times a week,” Pierson says. “Now that we have a plan, we stick to once a week.”
Planning also equates to more intentional food consumption. “Preparing (washing and chopping) fruit and vegetables on Fridays means there is always a heathy snack or meal component to grab from the refrigerator,” Pierson says. “We’ve eliminated the friction of, ‘Oh, I’d like some carrots, [I] but don’t want to peel and cut them, so I’ll grab chips instead.’”
Pierson’s Pro Tips
- Use What you Have: “Before meal planning, I look in the refrigerator and pantry with the goal of letting nothing go to waste. I use the remaining ingredients in our fridge and pantry as a base for our meal plan the following week.”
- Check the Calendar: “If you have an activity night, plan for a quick and easy meal. Check on days that you may already know you’ll be eating out. That way you won’t be buying food that won’t get eaten.”
- Don’t Assign Meals: “I write out five meals that I will make throughout the week. [Each day], I decide what to make based on our schedule. That way, I don’t feel tied down to making a more labor-intensive meal when we get home 15 minutes before dinnertime ...” (Decide how many meals works for your family.)
- Focus on One Dish: “I typically focus on planning the main dish for dinner. I’m not too picky about side dishes. We always have fresh fruit and vegetables, along with frozen vegetables to use as sides.”
- Prepping is Key: “In the past, when I would cook something, I would chop the veggies needed for the recipe as I cooked ... It made cooking seem to take a long time and feel stressful. Now, the day that I grocery shop, I carve out time to component prep. If fajitas are on our menu, I’ll slice up bell peppers right away, so they’re completely ready to go when it’s time to cook. Does a recipe call for sliced chicken? I slice it after coming home from the grocery store. I wash most of our snacking and side dish fruits and vegetables immediately, so we always have fresh produce ready to eat.”
- Plan for Produce: “Plan to eat the produce that goes bad the quickest first. If we buy raspberries, we make sure to eat them within a couple of days. If I buy a rotisserie chicken, we plan to eat or freeze the meat right away.”
- Stick to the Plan: “I cook five nights a week. (We eat out once a week and have leftovers or something simple once
a week.) If it’s on our meal plan, I know I’ll have the ingredients ready to go in the fridge.