Happy, Healthy Meal Planning Tips You Can Use All Year Long
If you're looking to add more meal planning into your life this year, then you've come to the right place. We've gathered up some of the most helpful tips to make your weekly dinner routine a whole lot easier. Whether you're planning meals for your Ocean Isle Beach vacation or for your regular routine at home, read these suggestions first.
As with most things in life, a little proactive planning and prep work goes a long way. Avoid that daunting feeling of dread as dinnertime approaches by feeling prepared and ready for the week ahead—and apply these strategies all year long. Let's do this!
Get Inspired with Recipes
Find some motivation for your meal planning by perusing recipes that inspire you. Whether you like paging through colorful cookbooks, pinning mouthwatering recipes on Pinterest, or swapping favorite recipes with friends and families, find meals that inspire your desire (or lack thereof).
Keep It Simple
You do not have to make a meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Start small and keep it simple. Avoid overly complicated recipes that require special ingredients that are hard to find. Set yourself up for success by starting with meals you and your family already know and love. Focus getting yourself in the meal-planning routine, and then you can elevate your expectations when you're ready.
Assess Your Week
Before you start planning meals for every night of the week, take a look at your calendar and know what you have planned. For nights where you have events or commitments outside the home, consider super simple meals that are ready to go, or plan to eat out on those nights if it makes your life easier. Meal plan smarter, not harder.
Assign a Day to Shop & Prep
Whenever possible, set aside a specific day of the week to grocery shop and to do your prep work for the week. It doesn't matter which day you choose as long as you know what day that is and you are prepared for it. A routine just makes it easier to make your weekly meal plan successful.
Take Stock of Your Pantry & Freezer
Start by taking a good long look at what you already have in your pantry and freezer. Take inspiration from those ingredients and find recipes that will work with what you already have on hand. Consider keeping your pantry and freezer stocked with the staple ingredients you know your family enjoys and that you tend to use often.
Write Out Your Weekly Meal Plan
Writing out your meal plan gives you (and your family) a visual reference of what's ahead for the week. It also preempts that question: "What's for dinner?" that you probably hear every night from your family. Write out a quick nightly or weekly list and keep it in a central location for everyone's reference.
Make a Shopping List of What You Need
Once you know what you want to make and what you already have in your kitchen, it's time to make a shopping list of what you still need. Try to stick to that list in order to avoid buying things you don't need or duplicating what you already have at home.
Prep in Advance
Whenever you have the time to do a little prep work, take advantage of that time. A little cutting, chopping, washing, and even cooking ahead can make a big difference in a busy week. You'll thank yourself later! It also makes it easier for your family to grab what they need for lunches or snacks when it's right there in the fridge and ready to go.
Consider Using Theme Nights
Choosing a theme once a week or even a few nights a week helps keep a focus on your meal planning. If you know that it's Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday then you already have a head start on what you're making. Don't worry, you can venture outside of the alliteration and have Pasta Wednesday or Soup and Salad Thursday. No one is going to judge you.
Get Your Family Involved
Take advantage of crowdsourcing the meal plan by inviting input from your family. They know what they like and often can remind you of recipes that you've already forgotten. You can even assign the older members of your family the responsibility of choosing and planning one meal each week. That's one less thing on your plate.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Batch cooking allows you to enjoy a meal while also saving a portion of it for another time. You can double a recipe so that you can put half of it away in the freezer for a busy night. Or maybe you have a lighter day where you have time to make something ahead of time like soup or chili. Freeze it so you can have ready-to-go meals on nights when you don't have the time to cook from scratch.
If you're making a whole roast chicken for dinner one night, you'll certainly have enough of it to use in another meal that same week. Fajitas? Pot pie? Soup? Plan accordingly so you can overlap the ingredients you're already making to use in another dish.
Transform Leftovers into Something New
This aligns with the previous point about taking what you have already made and transforming it into a new dish. Shred that leftover chicken for tacos, make open-face roast beef sandwiches from the roast you made earlier in the week, or take all of your leftovers and have a buffet night where your family can get creative and make whatever they want with whatever you have left in the fridge.
You know the famous quote "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry"—well that applies to meal planning, too. Life is busy, things come up, and plans change. That's okay! You can always push that meal to the next week if you need to or abandon it all together. It's a plan not a contract.
Save Your Family Faves
Every family has its favorites, so do yourself a favor and record those recipes somewhere that's easy for you to reference and access. Put those family faves into the weekly rotation and save yourself the time and energy of trying to find something new to make. Share favorite recipes with your friends and family, and ask them for some of theirs next time you need something new and different.
What are your best meal planning tips?
Drop them in the comment section below! Sharing is caring. :)