I hope I was able to help with the “what’s for dinner?” problem by recommending meal planning- it really is life changing! But I admit it can be hard to get started, so here I have a list of some meal planning tips that will make this amazing new strategy even easier for you!
- Use a template. Knowing that one night each week you’ll have a meat meal, one night chicken, one night fish, etc., takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning your meals. It doesn’t have to be boring either; there are so many options in each category. Here are some meal planning apps to help make it even easier.
- Designate a regular day for planning. A weekend day is a good time to plan your meals and shopping for the week. It shouldn’t take too long, but will save you lots of time in the long run. To help your budget, see what’s on sale in your local stores and plan meals around those items.
- Make a list of ingredients you’ll need for the week. Then, look around and see what you already have at home before making a very detailed shopping list.
- Designate a regular shopping day each week. And shop with a list! I like to write my list on my phone so I know I won’t forget it at home. By getting all the shopping done in one day you’ll be able to get started cooking without scrambling around looking for ingredients or last minute trips to the store.
- Buy in bulk. Do this whenever you can so you’ll always have certain ingredients on hand. You can store meat in the freezer to use later, and non-perishables can last for months in your pantry.
- Use one element more than once. Cooking a large batch of chicken breast or pasta to use for more than one meal is an incredible time saver.
- Plan around the seasons. Using seasonal items will make your shopping easier, and your cooking tastier. Also think about what makes sense. You’ll want to grill a lot in the summer and eat more soups and stews in the winter.
- Change it up a little. If Tuesday night is meatball night, make it exciting by trying a new meatball recipe now and then. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart.
- Be flexible. Nothing is set in stone; this is designed to make your life easier, so if you need to make a change, know that it won’t wreck the whole plan.
- Keep it simple. Don’t try the complicated recipes with dozens of ingredients and millions of steps- you’ll only feel intimidated and tempted to ditch the plan. Stick to the simple meals you know your family will like.
- Get things done in advance. Advance prep can make each night’s work much easier. For example: chop all the veggies for the week at once and store in zip-top bags or containers until you need them.
- Consider your schedule. Plan easier meals for busier days.
- Plan for time off. Put a night out into the schedule, or a do-it-yourself or leftovers meal once a week.
- Cook more than you need. Cook twice as much as you need and freeze the rest for another meal. Or cook a little extra to pack for lunches.
- Be organized. Keep your recipes organized by using Pinterest boards, plastic sleeves in a binder, or apps- here are some good ones.
Do you meal plan? If so, what are your top smart meal planning tips? If not, give it a try and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!