Today I wanted to share a few of my meal planning tips and tricks. Several of you have told me that you struggle with this, so I hope this is helpful!
It does take time, but I have settled into a good pattern. Hopefully these tips will be of good use to you.
1. Plan your meals around your life, not the other way around.
Think about the activities for the week first. If you have an extremely busy day/night, that is not the time to try any new elaborate recipes. Are there any nights that you will not need to prepare anything?
2. Have some regular “easy” meals in your arsenal.
I have several of these – rotisserie chicken shows up on my meal plans a LOT. They a bargain item at Costco (where I usually get mine), plus I can usually make 2 meals off of one, AND homemade chicken stock if I need some. I also have a couple of crock pot meals that fit into this category.
I try to balance my week with a few easier meals and one (or sometimes two) higher effort meals.
3. Have a few emergency meals up your sleeve as well.
I also have a couple of emergency meals (Stouffer’s lasagnas, etc.) in my freezer. We don’t eat those all that often, but I figure it is better than take-out or fast food. I have pulled these out when I am unexpectedly home with a sick baby, or when I have not been able to get to the grocery store.
I am trying to get better about making double of my own home-cooked meals, and freezing half as well.
When I am home alone, breakfast for dinner is another easy option. My husband does not like breakfast for dinner (say whaaaaat?), though, so we don’t do that if he is home.
4. I only try a maximum of one new recipe a week.
It takes more time & energy to make something new, so I find it easier to work in one new recipe a week.
5. Check the freezer, fridge and pantry to see what I have on hand before writing out my meals.
If I need to use something up, I can work that into my plan for the week. I am trying to get better about using what is on hand first. This reduces spoilage and makes the best use of your grocery budget.
6. I make my grocery shopping list for the week while I am writing out my meal plan.
I try to go to the grocery store only once a week. This has been a huge time-saver! Plus it helps me to make sure I don’t forget anything. Syncing up my meal planning with grocery shopping has been oh so helpful.
7. I keep good historical notes.
This is one of my favorite meal planning tips, and it has really helped keep me organized! I keep my meal planning in an Excel spreadsheet. I am a true spreadsheet nerd, and this is one of the many examples of how I use it in real life. A few benefits of this include:
- I save links to recipes we have tried and liked
- I have started saving a list of ALL of my past meals. This gives me something to choose from if I am drawing a blank. If I just sit down with a blank sheet of paper, sometimes I cannot think of anything to make! This really helps!
- I have a tab for recipes that I want to try. If I see something that I know I want to make eventually, I will capture that along with the link (or page number if it is in a physical cookbook). I can pull from these when I do my meal plan.
- Recipe links are organized, which makes it easy for me to share in a blog post. I link to recipes whenever I can, and this makes it super easy to share with you guys – I just a copy and paste.
- When I go to make something, I can access the recipe very easily – I just click on the link.
Do you have any meal planning tips and tricks? Share with us in the comments!