Here are a few tips I have learned through the years on meal planning. It really does make life so much less stressful!
1. Set Aside Time
This is a CRITICAL step. Set aside a particular day/time that works for you to look at your week coming ahead and plan out your meals, do grocery shopping, etc. If you can make this a habit, it’s so much less stressful!
*Write your menu so it can be displayed. I made my own Menu board in a 12×12 frame and use dry erase markers on the glass. I can even change out the paper with the seasons! The kids love knowing what is for dinner each night and it helps me stick to the plan! I also have these FREE printables for you to use!
*Grocery pickup and/or Grocery delivery has SAVED me so much time and money. Check with your local grocery store to see if this service is available.
2. Food Prep
In general, the Prep time/Cook time given in a recipe can or cannot be realistic, so I take this with a grain of salt. The majority of my time in the kitchen is prepping. If you can work it out to prep the day(s) BEFORE or in the early morning/afternoon, it will really save time when you cook dinner. Food Prep is probably the most tedious part of making a recipe! One idea would be to pick one day and food prep what you can for all of your meals for the entire week and put the ingredients in containers/Tupperware.
3. Know Your Favorite Flavors
Determine what your favorite herbs, spices, and flavors are so you can pick recipes with those ingredients. If you don’t know where to start in this, send me a message!
4. Be Open To New Foods!
Your taste buds can adapt and change and some foods taste different when they are cooked differently or with other flavors. Don’t be afraid to try new foods/flavors or things you have previously disliked.
5. Serving Size
This can be tricky. There is nothing that bugs me more than wasting food or leftovers from the fridge. Some recipes my family devours and we have no leftovers and other recipes we have a lot left over. This takes trial and error to see what works best for your family. We definitely always have a scrounge night each week! On any soups, stews, or any one-pot meal, I usually always double as they are so good leftover the next day.
6. Theme Nights
This is a great option if you like redundancy, simplicity, and consistency. I currently don’t do this, but know it works for a lot of people! Examples of this would be Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Leftover Wednesdays, Chicken Thursday, etc.
7. Picky Eaters
Please do NOT be intimidated or feel hopeless if you have picky eaters. I have a couple of kids that can be picky eaters so I get it! You work hard to prepare a meal and they turn their nose up at it. Here is what I’ve learned from this.
*Get your kids to help in the kitchen and you would be surprised how they will try new foods the more they cook! Cooking is an essential skill for them to learn and they will also gain confidence in the kitchen. It is also a great opportunity to have quality time with your child.
8. Use What You Have
When I plan meals, I try to make sure that I use up ingredients I already have in the fridge/pantry. An organized pantry definitely helps!!!
9. Plan Breakfast and Lunch
This may be overload for you and I get it. However, I have noticed when I plan breakfast and lunch for my family, we eat better and more nutritiously. I definitely don’t cook breakfast and lunch every day, however, I plan for them keeping in mind I can be flexible and we can swap if needed. Keep some key foods in your pantry and fridge for a quick lunch and breakfast! Frozen waffles are a regular in my house!!! Click here for a few of my favorite kid school lunch items/products.
10. Keep it Simple and Realistic
If you’re new to meal planning, start with just 1-2 meals and build as you make it a habit. It is important to be realistic with your time and schedule so you don’t get overwhelmed. I always have at least 1-2 nights where I am off duty from cooking (Scrounge night or eating out).
My family likes to plan a FUN meal each week. We even sometimes let the kids take turns choosing! Our kids always have a fun (and usually unhealthy) breakfast on Friday mornings and our fun dinner is on the weekend. A FUN meal for our family is a “splurge” meal and we usually cook it ourselves. We also love having friends, family, and neighbors over to share it with.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming! If any or all of these tips overwhelm you or if you have any questions, please connect with me! I would love to hear from you!!!
Click here to download my FREE printable blank grocery list with Menu.