For some of you meal planning may be a dreaded idea! Personally I am a list maker. I find joy in it!
Over the years I have learned some do’s and dont’s of meal planning. I wanted to share with you my tips and tricks that will hopefully make it a little easier for you to do!
Why Meal Plan?
Do I really need to meal plan? Can’t I just make whatever I feel like?
Without a family to cook for it is easy to skip the meal planning, and just make and eat whatever you have at in the pantry at the time. If we are completely honest though, with out a meal plan I usually end up eating peanut butter and jelly or a bowl of ice cream for dinner. If you are only planning for yourself meal planning can help you eat healthy and save money from eating out. If you have a family you are cooking for meal planning can also save you money, avoid last minute trips through the drive through, and give you an answer to that daily question; “whats for dinner Mom?”
It also saves everyone that dreaded staring into the fridge for several minutes with that deer in the head lights look!
Tips for Meal Planning:
1. Spend time looking for new recipes:
If you are reading this blog you are probably some what internet savvy. You either found me via Pinterest or like to read blogs on a regular basis. They are the easiest way for me to find new recipes is online! Make a Pinterest board of “recipes to try” and when you are at a loss for ideas just scroll through and get some inspiration! You can also click on the recipe tab at the top of this site and view all my recipes for some new ideas! You can even do it the “old fashion” way and read cookbooks!
2. Ask your Family:
If you are planning meals for your family then ask them what they want! If you have kids the answer my be cereal or pizza every time but sometimes it can help inspire you!
3. Know your schedule:
Knowing your schedule will really help you know what type of meal you need on each night. Chad plays softball on Tuesday so I make something light for him, and something that we could pack and eat at the softball game if the boys nap late and we run out of time. Wednesday we have Max’s therapy and church to be ready for so an easy crock pot meal or a casserole I can throw together is what we usually try on those nights. On days that Chad works late and eats at work I usually plan something small or fun for the kids. Knowing the weather the week can also be useful! Plan soup for a cold or rainy day or to grill when the weather is nice!
4. Plan for leftovers:
If you tend to have a lot of leftovers then plan meals around it! I used to pack all leftovers for Chad to eat during lunch the next day but since we now works at a restaurant he usually eats there instead. I usually plan leftovers as a meal day. The best time for this is usually toward the end of the week. Get out all the leftovers and everyone can pick there favorites, mix and match, or try a little of each! If your family doesn’t like leftovers then try and use it to create a whole new meal and it feels and taste a little better then leftovers.
5. Write it down and start a calendar:
In the past I would work really hard on making a meal plan and shopping list but after I went shopping I always ended up losing my meal plan paper and forgetting what I was planning on making! Getting a calendar will not alone help you keep track of your meal plan for the week but help when planning future meals! I always look back on my calendar when thinking of my meal plan to help inspire me!
6. Have a Few Go to Meals available:
Lets all be honest! Sometimes we can plan, prepare, and be fully ready for dinner but something comes up. The kids get sick, you are running errands longer then planned, staying at work late, it all comes up, i’ve been there. I usually keep some go to meals at home, something easy like spaghetti. This way if I miss my cooking window I have something easy on hand. I then grab a marker and circle on the calendar the day I missed! This way when meal planning comes for the next week I can I can add that meal right away and already have my ingridents for it!
7. Choose a Shopping Day and Make a List:
I don’t always go shopping on the same day every week, but always the same amount of time. You need to plan rather you will go twice a week, once a week, once a month, whatever works best for your family. I usually try and go once a week on a day Chad is off work so I can go alone! Going with out kids usually helps save money! If you want to save yourself daily trips to the store make a list so you don’t forget anything!
8. Go to your Pantry:
Now it’s time to make your list! The first thing I do it head to the pantry and check out my inventory! To try and not waste I usually will try and think of meals using things I already have first!
9. Check sale items and coupons:
When planning meals I love to check whats on sale and what I have coupons for. Buying and using items you can get on sale will help save money!
10. Plan Like Meals:
The next thing I try and do is plan like meals. If I’m going to buy chicken I’ll buy in bulk and separate into several meals for the week. If you are going to plan a taco night then think of something do to with left over like taco stuffed shells.
11. Get your List Made:
Sometimes thinking of what to make is the hardest part. Start by writing done the days of the week you are buying for. Next go through and decide which nights you will be home for dinner. If you can’t think of meals right away write down key words like, something fast, a casserole, crock-pot meal, or kids choice! Then go back and fill in the blank! Once I know my meals for the week, I usually go through and write down what each one needs. Then go through and write it all down in order of where I will find it in the store! This saves me time from going back and forth and up and down the store over and over!
12. Prep your Food:
Once you get your list and go buy food the next part is prep! If you are doing freezer meals or not prepping your food will save you time and energy later one! Wash your veggies and fruit, separate your meat in meal size sections and place them in the freezer, and pre cook anything you need to.
Getting your family together is so important and I hope this helps make family meals a lot easer for you!
I know it may seems like a lot of extra work but as you get in the routine it becomes easier and will save you so much time day to day!