If the phrase “meal planning” frightens you, I want to encourage you to keep reading.
I know the thought of planning meals can be overwhelming. My goal is to lessen your fears and help you succeed in meal planning. And I have a time saving trick for you to try!
Benefits to Meal Planning
- You save TONS of time! As a seasoned meal planner, I spend about 30 minutes each week planning my meals. I spend 1-1.5 hours grocery shopping (including drive time) and 15-30 minutes per day preparing my meals. When you don’t plan, you can easily spend 30 minutes getting fast food. And at least 20 minutes going to the grocery store to get what you need for dinner. Meanwhile, your children are grumpy and getting hangry. I know first hand that it is no fun to cook with your children whining at you and asking when dinner is going to be ready!
- You save money. The more you cook at home, the more money you save. This point really doesn’t need any explanation. It is a well-known fact.
- Your eat better. Cooking at home is much healthier than eating out. You will be able to include more fresh foods, lean meats, and vegetables. There is a lot of research showing that people who cook and eat at home actually weigh less and are healthier overall!
- You have less stress. When you have dinner already planned, evenings are so much more enjoyable and relaxing!
Have I convinced you to start or improve your meal planning efforts? I hope so!
Here are some tips and tricks to help you start planning. As you become an expert meal planner, you will establish your own system that works best for your family.
Steps to Meal Planning
- Choose four or five recipes for your dinner meals each week. If this step sounds overwhelming to you, start with choosing just two recipes to start with. And plan to get to the grocery store twice per week in the beginning. If you chose to begin with more recipes, you will likely need to get to the store once per week.
- Make your grocery list. I do this on a notes app on my phone. Paper and pen work just as well! Look at the recipes you chose and make sure you have all the appropriate ingredients. When you are missing an ingredient, write it on your list.
- Think about balance in your dinners. Do you need to add a vegetable? Is there a good source of protein? Add missing items to your list. For example, if I have spicy salmon on my menu I will add a side vegetable and maybe some sweet potatoes.
- Continue your grocery list. Think about lunches for the week. This is where I usually add things like meatballs, bread, ham, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, apples, etc.
- Keep writing. Think about breakfast. Think about things like coffee, milk, oatmeal, English muffins, fruit, and eggs.
- Look through coupons you have to see if you should take any to the store with you. You can also look at ads ahead of time and plan meals based on foods that are on sale.
Now it’s time to get to the store! With your list made, reusable bags in tow, and coupons handy, you are all set. Remember to keep tunnel vision while shopping. Stick to your list. You will save yourself from extra calories you probably don’t need and more importantly, you will save time.
A Time Saving Trick
My recipe book. I only have one. That’s right-one! I have gone through all of my cookbooks and torn out the recipes I love. They go in my book. I have also torn out the recipes I would like to try, which in my folder of recipes to try. I try a new recipe twice a month. Otherwise, I stick to my recipe book.
My book has about 70 easy dinner recipes that we LOVE. If we like a new recipe, I add it to my book. If we don’t love it, I toss it. Some of the recipes in my book will be filed in the archives if we don’t continue to love it. I often keep these recipes in another folder just in case. But they are not a part of our normal meal plans.
I know this idea may scare some of you. The thought of tearing up your cookbooks is insane! I know it sounds crazy, but this saves me so much time! This is why I sit down on Monday or Tuesday morning to plan my meals for the week. This method only takes me 20-30 minutes instead of hours searching through recipes on Pinterest! Don’t be afraid to give meal planning a try. You just might be surprised at how much you will grow love it!
What are your favorite meal planning tips?