Is this you every day when you are asked what’s for dinner?
Imagine KNOWING you’ve got everything you need, right in your own kitchen, to prepare a quick and healthy dinner to enjoy with your family. And you can do this every night of the week!
Does that sound too good to be true? It’s not and I can help! I’m going to walk you through the basics of meal planning. I’m going to show you how taking some time over the weekend to sit down and make a plan can save you so much time and aggravation during the busy week. Not to mention the money and calories you’ll save by not eating out.
IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU ARE PLANNING TO FAIL
Those words from Benjamin Franklin hold true when it comes to meal planning. We have no hope of stress-free dinners if we don’t take the time to plan.
There are a few versions of meal planning, some involve actually prepping the food, and others do not. Here are some of the common ways to meal plan:
- Plan what you are going to cook for the week. Shop once or more and cook each night.
- Plan what you are going to cook for the week. Shop once and do some prep work to make it easier to cook each night.
- Plan what you are going to cook for the week. Shop once and prepare the meals and dish them out into servings.
- Some combo of the above.
I do a little bit of everything and so can you. For this blog, I’m going to focus on the first one. Let’s plan what nights you want to cook, figure out what you’re going to cook, get it all in writing and execute the plan.
When planning for the week I like to do one big shopping trip, then pick up some fresh items on one more trip during the week. Sometimes I like to bang out the planning, shopping and first night of cooking on the same day. On other days, that is too much to tackle. So I will plan and shop on one day, and serve leftovers or a prepped meal on that night. Then get to my weekly plan the following night.
Think about what would work best for you. And what day(s) you would like to handle the tasks.
Are you ready to learn more?
CORRAL THOSE RECIPES
Let’s start with your collection of recipes. If they are not already organized spend some time taking care of that. You can organize them in a way that works for you depending on your preference for paper or electronic.
Here are some suggestions:
- Cookbooks – use sticky notes to mark the pages of the recipes you love or want to try.
- Binder – this is a great place to gather the recipes you print or pull from magazines. Put them in page protectors or just 3-hole punch them to go in the binder. If you want a cute cover for your binder you can print mine out here.
Here’s a great video about setting up a recipe binder by a YouTuber who has several meal planning videos I love.
- Pinterest board – have a meal planning board on Pinterest to pin all the recipes you see there while scrolling.
- Trello board – store the links to recipes you find online in a board on Trello.
- Folder on your computer – you can download the recipes you find and keep them in a folder or file on your computer.
- Photo album on your phone – I screenshot recipes so I have an album on my phone to store them in. It’s easy to pull up at the grocery store to get the ingredients, and easy to pull up on the phone or iPad in the kitchen for the directions.
GET IT IN WRITING
Next, you’ll need a place to write down the meals. There are many creative and fun meal planners on the market. You can get a planner type book, a notebook, or magnetic notepad for your fridge. Or you can keep it simple with a notebook or my printable Meal Planner.
Here’s an extra step for those of you with food on hand in your freezer or pantry. If this isn’t you, just skip this step. Have a list of your “inventory.” These are the items in your pantry, fridge or freezer that you want to use up. Now is also a good opportunity to clean out your fridge, freezer, and pantry of any expired items, to make your meal planning and prepping easier.
Having that list will help you figure out what to make that week. For example, I have a bag of shrimp in my freezer so I put shrimp and corn chowder on the menu for this week.
Some meal planners have a space for inventory or you can use my Inventory printable.
Back to the planning, I plan for a week of dinners at a time. I will often include lunch/snack ideas with my planning. Check out my Bento Box blog for easy ideas.
If you want to go all in on meal planning you may want to plan a month at a time. This helps you get more variety or routines in your planning. Maybe you want to try Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays. Or maybe you want to keep track of how many times you make chicken or use red meat.
Check out my Calendar Page printable if you want to give it a try.
Here’s another YouTuber I love to watch who has plenty of meal planning tips and tricks. This video talks about monthly meal planning.
IT’S GO TIME!
Schedule a time in the week to create a meal plan. In the beginning this will take you some time, but will get easier the more often you do it.
Gather your supplies. You’ll need your recipes, inventory list, meal planner, shopping list and your phone or computer if you are using them. You can set the mood with a candle and your favorite beverage. Make it an enjoyable part of your week so you’ll want to do it!
Choose the recipes for the number of nights you will be cooking dinners. Write down the recipe names on the night you plan on cooking them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling the recipes:
- Choose the recipes for fish early in the week to make sure they are fresh. Meats can stay fresh longer in your refrigerator. Check out this resource for how long food lasts in the fridge and freezer.
- Choose slow cooker recipes for days when you need dinner on the table quickly, or you’ll have people eating in stages. You can keep dinner in the slow cooker on warm to accommodate the late night diners.
- Choose double-duty recipes for nights you have more time. If you are making a meatloaf or grilling some chicken, make a double batch to get another meal or leftovers. Look at you! You’re already starting to meal prep!
Once you’ve got the recipes down, fill in the shopping list. If you are doing a second shopping trip in the week, make that list also. I use a sticky note on my meal planner to jot down what I will buy later in the week.
THAT’S A WRAP!
There you have it. You are all ready to meal plan! Thank you for reading.
What do you think? Are you going to give meal planning a try? Please let me know in the comments below. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.
Coming soon – Cook on Sunday to Eat All Week. Stay tuned for my meal PREPPING blog!
Come hang out with me on Facebook. I share what I cook for dinner there as well as my meal planning and prepping.