Save hours of time meal planning with these 5 easy tips. Use these tips each week to make meal planning simple and effective!
If you survey a group of busy women about what causes them the most stress each day, I’m willing to bet meal planning for their family makes the top of the list.
The first thing my kids ask when I get home from work each evening is “what’s for dinner?”
This is usually quickly followed with “can we eat out?”
Luckily, I’m well prepared to squash their happy meal dreams when I meal plan for the week, but I’m much more likely to give in to the drive-thru temptation when I’m stressed out and haven’t prepped.
Meal planning is sometimes easier said than done, but I wanted to share a few simple tips I use to keep me on top of meal time.
#1 Make a recipe list of family favorites
Keep track of quick and easy recipes that your family will always eat. Save it on your computer, keep a printed copy on your fridge, or keep a list in your planner. Make sure these are easy recipes with a few simple ingredients you are sure to have on hand. This way you can whip them up quickly with no complaints from the dinner dictators.
Speaking of ingredients you have on hand…
#2 Keep your kitchen stocked with frequently used ingredients
I’m sure there are ingredients you find yourself using frequently. For my family, that can include canned diced tomatoes, pasta, and romaine lettuce. If I don’t know what to cook for dinner, I can usually throw a one-pot meal together with a protein, canned tomatoes, and a starch. I’ll chop up a head of romaine lettuce for a salad and we’ve got a complete meal.
Take a minute to create your list of frequently used ingredients. Print it out and hang it inside your pantry so you can mark when you are getting low. This will save you tons of time when making your grocery list and will help when you’re figuring out dinner on the fly.
#3 Make a list of meals for the week
Take time at the beginning of each week to plan out your meals. Look over your favorite recipe list and plan for enough meals to fill your week, keeping in mind your schedule for the week.
I used to be so bad about scrolling through Pinterest on a Saturday morning saving all the beautiful recipe pics to try that week. I didn’t take into consideration my chaotic schedule and would end up with a recipe that took 30 minutes of prep and an hour to cook when I only had a 15-minute window from the time I got home until the time my kids turned into tiny starving terrorists.
Do yourself a favor and keep it simple to avoid as much dinner chaos as possible.
You can go ahead and plan the meals for each day or pick from your list day by day. We usually eat the same breakfast most days, go for a simple sandwich or leftovers for lunch, and pick 5 dinner recipes each week. We plan to eat out at least once and one night of leftovers. Each day we’ll cook what sounds good from our weekly menu (or what we have time for).
#4 Make a grocery list
If I tried to wing it at the grocery store, my stomach would make all the decisions. This means I would come home with $50 worth of potato chips and chocolate, but nothing of substance to eat for dinner.
Go to the grocery store with a plan. Make a list of ingredients needed for your menu plan and any ingredients you are getting low on from your frequently used ingredient list.
If you are feeling ambitious, put your list in order by department. This may seem like overkill, but it will save you time at the store. Nothing’s worse than getting to the bottom of your list and seeing something from the other side of the store.
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#5 The $5 Meal Plan
If you are looking to save even more time with meal planning, check out the $5 Meal Plan. This is a weekly meal plan service from Erin Chase of $5 Dinners that takes the stress out of meal planning by doing it for you. For $5 per month, they send you a weekly meal plan, which includes the recipes and grocery list (in order by department!). All the planning is done for you so you just buy the ingredients and cook the food.
My family has used this meal planning service since December and it has saved us a ton of time with meal planning. The recipes are family friendly, easy, and we’ve loved nearly everything we’ve made.
I really love how easy the $5 Meal Plan makes meal planning each week. We had a change in routine when school started this year and my husband took over cooking and meal planning. This may seem like a small change, but aside from the occasional spaghetti dinner, he hasn’t had to plan our weekly menu in 15 years (I just dated myself, didn’t I?).
Needless to say, he was slightly intimidated.
There was no need for intimidation though. I send him the plan each week (it comes to my email) and everything is ready for him. He places an online grocery order based on the grocery list with the plan and he has all the recipes at his fingertips.
Give it a try for free for 2 weeks and see if it saves you time, stress, and keeps you out of the drive thru.
Instead of spending your time meal planning, you can spend more quality time with your family, catching up on other errands, or binge watching Netflix.
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