Meal planning can be one of the biggest time savers you have in the kitchen. You can save money, time and resources by taking just 15 to 20 minutes one day a week to meal plan. Your money is saved by purchasing only those items that you need. Your time is saved by not running to the grocery store every day. Resources are saved because you have a plan and know what is needed so nothing goes to waste.
The light at the end of the tunnel and the biggest benefit to meal planning–things just run smoother. It’s a peace of mind knowing you’re family has a meal at dinner time and you’re not trying to scramble up something with little or no ingredients as soon as you walk through the door. If you’re scrambling, you’re most likely going to resort to unhealthy fast food choices.
Make Meal Planning Simple
1. Plan Ahead
Early Sunday morning when the house is quite is my meal planning time for the week. From the meal plan I’ve created, I create my grocery shopping list.
I like to keep track of all my family and upcoming school activities in my agenda book then transfer them to a calendar page on the fridge where the whole family can see what the upcoming family and school activities are for the week.
If I have any evening meetings or telephone conferences during the week, that means I need to plan a quick dinner, have leftovers from a previous night or serve one of my make ahead meals from the freezer. If I time it right, I can put a quick crock pot meal together and it’s ready when we’re ready to eat dinner.
2. Make a Meal Plan and Post It
I post the weekly meal plan front and center on the fridge so the whole family can see it. Everyone likes to see it and it’s a reminder for me if I need to take something out of the freezer, change a side dish, or if I decide to add something to the menu that I may have forgotten. I always try to make sure I glance at the weekly menu the night before or early in the morning.
Our kids cook dinner one day a week. Before I sit down and plan the weekly meal, I always ask the family for ideas on what they’d like to see on the menu and cook. It’s usually pretty simple…mac and cheese, pizza, spaghetti, taco salad.
3. Keep it Simple
Family meals don’t have to be a full fancy course. Keep it simple. Sit down with your family and find a favorite meal. For us, it’s Zesty Taco Salad. It consists of taco meat, (which I always make a big batch of taco meat and store it in two cup portions in the freezer so it’s easy to pull out and thaw), beans, chopped veggies (pre-chopped on prepping day), tortilla chips and Catalina salad dressing. From start to finish it takes less than 25 minutes to make. Everyone can make it AND enjoys it.
Beans are inexpensive and a great staple to have on hand in your pantry. They are also full of dietary fiber, and easy to freeze. Serve them weekly or bi-weekly and you’ll find that there are many ways you can serve them. Get into a good habit of pre-soaking them on your weekly meal prepping day or a weeknight when your schedule is not so busy. Then slow cook the beans in your crock pot, serve the same night or let cool and store in two cup portions in the freezer. *Beans can also be stored in the freezer after soaking for 24 hours. Drain and divide into two cup portions, label “ready for crock pot” and freeze. When you’re ready to cook them, pull out and put into the crock pot with water or chicken broth.
Here are some of our family’s previous weekly meal plans. Once you start meal planning, you’ll begin to see how simple meal planning really is and truly what a time saver in the kitchen it is. When your family asks “What’s for dinner?” your always prepared. Give it a try. Happy meal planning!
Do you meal plan? Are you consistent? What’s your method – paper and pen or some high-tech method?