Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Meal planning can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it. Good thing it's really easy.
Some meal plan for the week, others do a month at a time. Some do meal prep and make ahead meals while others opt for making the meal to its full extent night of.
However you want to go about it, the fact is meal planning saves you time, stress, and that precious money you spent all day earning.
So here's some basic starters to consider when beginning your meal planning adventure.
1. Collect those Recipes
First off, you need to know what you like and what your family will eat. Collect recipes in a binder and make notes of any changes or substitutions you make to the recipes, as great as your memory is, i guarantee you won't remember those little tweaks you made the next time around.
2. Consider Your Weekly Schedule
There will be nights where you won't eat till 10 p.m. if you schedule to have a pot roast on the same night as your moms club. Consider your business, keep it easy breezy on those crazy nights and save those big, fancy, time-consuming meals on a more free night or weekend.
3. Make a Plan
So taking point 1 and 2 into consideration, it's time to write out a plan. I use this printable that has my weekly meal plan and grocery list in one to keep it all together.
4. Make a List
Now looking at each recipe and meal you scheduled, you need to figure out what you're going to need from the store. If you're trying to save on the money, don't choose recipes that have specialty ingredients or fresh ingredients you're only going to use part of (and end up tossing the rest). Also, and I can't stress this enough, stick to your list! Remembering things you forgot to write down is one thing, but picking up that package of thin mints in a weak moment, while it happens to the best of us, its becomes a money sucker.
Other Things to Consider
1. Breakfast and Lunch
In our house, we only meal plan for the evening meals, because that's the one we eat together. But that still leaves breakfast and lunch unaccounted for. This is where we create a list of staple items we always have around the house. Yes, the bread, eggs and milk, but also items such as oatmeal and bagels for breakfast and deli meats and fruit for lunch (same goes for granola bars and cheese sticks for snacks).
2. Leftovers Anyone?
My husband and I would go insane if we had to eat a deli meat sandwich everyday for lunch at work, we just can't do it. To combat this, we make a larger portion of the supper from the night before or cook something along with our night meal to have the next day for lunch (cooking a couple extra chicken breasts for a lunchtime sandwich or salad).
3. My Thoughts on Meal Prep and Freezer Meals
Now some go ahead and prep their meals for the entire week. Cutting veggies, portioning meat, etc. I am not one of those people. It's not how I want to spend my Sunday afternoon, and the amount of time it really saves me during the week when I'm cooking seems to be minimal. If you want to be that person, by all means, full steam ahead.
Another aspect of meal planning are freezer meals. Prepping the meal and putting it into a bag and into the freezer, thus saving you time and effort at a later date in which you can just pull out the bag and cook up the contents.
I also don't necessarily do this. For one, I don't have the freezer room to do so. But I don't think the quality of the meal ever really endures its time spent in the freezer. I will do this for certain soups, meatballs, potato dishes, and certain pasta dishes.
Regardless of how you want to go about the task of meal planning, one thing remains is that planning ahead on your meals will save you the stress and headache come dinner time each night. More importantly, it will save you money as you are only buying items you need for the week rather than aimlessly stocking up on supplies that may go bad or you do not need.
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