Meal planning is a great way to save time, money, and stress in the kitchen. It can be overwhelming to do, but with a family, it can help make things easier. Whether you’re new to meal planning or just looking for some helpful tips, here are the steps I would take to getting started and what to do each week.
Before we jump into how to meal plan, let’s talk about why you should make a meal plan. And that comes down to what goals you have for you and your family. Are you trying to save money or eat healthier? Meal planning can definitely help with this. If you are also constantly stressing about what to make and trying to throw something together at the last minute, having a plan can greatly cut down on that stress.
The Steps to Take in Making a Meal Plan
Here’s what I consider to be the steps to take when you make a meal plan for the week. It may seem like a lot of things to consider, but once you are in the habit the routine becomes quick.
Step 1: Check Your Calendar
Before you start choosing recipes and making grocery lists, take a look at your calendar for the week. Are there any events, appointments, or kids activities that might affect your meals? For example, if you have a late meeting on Tuesday, you may want to plan for a quick and easy meal that night. Or your kids may have practice on Monday and Wednesday, so you may want to have leftovers, take-out or something you can throw into a crock pot.
Step 2: See What Food You Have at Home
To save money and cut down on food waste, it’s a smart idea to see what food you have at home. Check in your refrigerator to see what produce, meat or other items you have to eat soon. Plus you can take a quick glance at your pantry or in your freezer to see if there is something you want to use and could be a starting point for something to make for the week.
Step 3: Choose Recipes
Now it’s time to choose your recipes. You can find recipes online, in cookbooks, or create your own. I often pick a few recipes from a handful of our usual things we make to start. Then I may choose something we haven’t made in awhile and also may add a new recipe I have recently found. Make sure to choose recipes that are balanced and fit into your families dietary needs and preferences. Another thing I like to do is ask my family what meals they want this week. I can often come up with 2 or 3 meals by making everyone’s favorites and my kids feel more involved in the process.
Step 4: Make a Grocery List
After you’ve chosen your recipes, make a grocery list of all the ingredients you need. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and ensure you have everything you need for your meals. For staple items you need, make sure to check your pantry and fridge before you go to the store so you don’t end up buying things you already have.
Step 5: Go Grocery Shopping!
I definitely find going to the store with a list in hand makes the process faster and easier. You can also easily do grocery delivery once you have your list figured out, and this can be super easy if you often order from the same place because most of your staples should be saved so you won’t forget anything.
Other Tips and Things to Consider
To save time during the week, you can prepare some ingredients in advance. For example, you can chop vegetables, cook grains, or marinate meat ahead of time. This will make meal prep much quicker and easier.
Once you have your meal plan and grocery list, it’s time to stick to it. This will help you avoid eating out or ordering takeout, which can be more expensive and less healthy. Make sure to have all the ingredients on hand so you don’t have an excuse to order in.
Be flexible with your meal plan and adjust it as needed. For example, if you have leftovers, incorporate them into future meals or adjust your plan if you find you’re not enjoying certain meals. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things or go with a new food item your kids like and are interested in.
In conclusion, meal planning is a great way to save time, money, and stress in the kitchen. By checking your calendar, choosing recipes, making a grocery list, as well as, prepping in advance, sticking to your plan, and adjusting as needed, you can create a meal plan that fits your families’ needs and lifestyle. With a little practice, meal planning will become second nature and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.