From the last four weeks of faithful meal planning, I’ve shared how important it is to sit down and take a little bit of time to meal plan. Week #4  of the was by far was the easiest week. Today, is the last day of the week and as I look back, I was able to stick to the weekly meal plan every night this past week. I hit the obstacle of running out of tomatoes during the first part of the week, but that’s okay. By having stocked the pantry with back up ingredients, I was able to pull off a great meal that night.

The only trip to the grocery store I made this past week was last night to replenish our milk supply and grab some tomatoes and avocados from the produce department. Both of which were on sale!

My outlook on meal planning is simple.

5 Tips For Easy Meal Planning

  1. Start with a blank meal planning calendar.  I literally just make a list using a sheet of paper and a calendar and jot down what I need to make with what I have on hand in the freezer, fridge and pantry. Having a calendar sheet like the one pictured above, gives me an outlook on the entire month. For instance, if I have hamburger meat, I can add some make-ahead ground beef to my recipes and create 3 to 5 meals spreading them out for the month or simply just through the week. I can do the same thing with shredded chicken or shredded beef and pork. Don’t forget to get ideas from the family.
  2. Check my family’s calendar.  I make notes on what is needed for that week and check my family’s event calendar to see if I need to plan meals that take 15 minutes versus 30 minutes and figure out what day works best for my baking and meal prep day. With 4-H, those nights I literally have only 15 minutes to cook a meal. It’s very handy to know some time-saving tips for meal planning.
  3. Plan around leftovers. Leftovers always seem to get a bad rap. If you have leftovers sitting in your fridge and you don’t want the same thing for dinner, find a way to spice them up. Leftover roasted potatoes can be added with chicken sausage and spinach for a Warm Chicken Sausage and Spinach Salad, leftover crock pot roasted chicken can be made into a Chinese Chicken Salad. My goal is to use those leftovers and not waste them.
  4. Browse the grocery store ads. This is a very important step if your family is on a budget or if you simply want to cut back on your grocery spending. I prefer to stock up on items when they are on sale rather than pay full price when “I need them”. Don’t be afraid to ask someone at the grocery store if an item will be going on sale in the upcoming weeks.
  5. Post your meal plan! The refrigerator is the most common place. This way, your whole family know what they’ll be having for dinner that week. This also helps if you’re running late and you need your husband or children to pull something from the freezer, pop in the oven or simply turn on the crock pot.

What are your favorite tips, tricks, or tools to help you meal plan? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in a comment below.

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