To help you avoid the daily conundrum of figuring out what on earth you’re going to make for dinner, here are 15 tips to simplify meal planning:
1. Get A Calendar
On your calendar, write down your weekly schedule, and plan meals according to ease, prep time, and ingredients on hand. Keep it visible in your kitchen, so you have a clear idea for cooking plans each day.
2. Get Organized
The difficult part of meal prep is planning what to make each day. Make a habit of planning the week on a specific day, buying groceries on a set day each week, and use tools like Smith’s Click List, Walmart’s Grocery Pick Up, or Albertson’s online orders to simplify your grocery shopping and save time.
3. Assign A Theme To Each Day
Eating the same foods each and every day gets boring. It can cause you to splurge, order takeout, or avoid eating altogether. Coming up with new recipes can be equally as trying! Give variation to your taste buds by having a theme for each day of the week. This will give you a starting point for finding recipes and new tastes to look forward to.
4. Use What You Have
Scan your cupboards for foods you have on hand, and build recipes around these items. This will save you time and money at the grocery store.
5. Get Your Family Involved
Asking your kids for input when it comes to meal planning may backfire. But with a few simple guidelines—pick one protein, one veggie, and one grain—your kids can give their ideas. With their help during meal planning, you’re more likely to see your kids enjoying the meals you place on the table instead of complaining about them.
6. Meal Prep
Make whatever you can ahead of time. If you use rice in 3 meals during the week, make a larger pot and store extras in the fridge. If you’ve got the time and stamina, blast through cooking a few meals in one day and store them in the fridge and freezer as well.
7. Crockpot Meals
There will be days when you have way too much going on, and you’ll be tempted to hit up a drive thru on the way home from your busy day. Instead, anticipate your hectic day by preparing with your calendar and find a good crockpot meal to prepare for your family. Store a few meals in the freezer for days that you’re in need of a grab-n-go meal.
8. Fresh Veggies
Fresh vegetables are a great addition to your family’s meals. They aren’t very expensive, they’re good for you, and they’re delicious. Try and implement a type of fresh vegetable into each meal. Again, let your kids pick out their favorites, so they aren’t frowning at or even refusing to eat the meals you cook for them.
9. Reuse Ingredients
You may end up using recipes that call for unique ingredients like sesame oil. Instead of spending $10 on a small bottle of sesame oil, plan a few recipes that week that include sesame oil: stir fry, salad dressing, short ribs, or sesame garlic chicken.
10. Make Enough For Leftovers
Rather than having take-out for lunch, plan on eating last night’s dinner. This is a healthier option than fast food and requires zero prep/planning.
11. Add A New Recipe Each Week
Another one of your themes for the week could be “New Recipe Day” where you try something that your family hasn’t had before. By trying new recipes, you will be able to add to your cookbook and add diversity to your family’s palates.
12. Let Your Family Be Critics
After your family tries something new, let them be honest with you and tell you what they think. This way you’ll know whether to add it to your cookbook or if you should toss it out.
13. Study The Recipe
During your weekly meal prep, make sure to study each recipe. After a bit of experience, you can look at a list of ingredients and know whether or not that Pinterest recipe is going to be worth the effort. Also, if you only have 20 minutes to throw a meal together, you can’t plan on making a stew that takes 30 minutes to simmer. So, pay attention to the prep/cook times.
14. Do All Of Your Shopping At Once
Another perk to doing your planning at the beginning of the week is that you’ll be able to do all your grocery shopping at once. No more quick, time consuming trips to the store for one or two items, and coming home with that tasty looking box of donuts from the store’s display.
15. Save Your Favorites For Next Time
As you discover meals that you, and perhaps the kids, enjoy cooking and eating, save them in one place to be repeated later. Soon enough, you’ll have a great list of go-to recipes for meal planning.