Who has time for meal planning? It is a fast paced world we live in. We are always zooming to the next place with little time between stops.
Well, actually meal planning can save you tons of time and save you tons of money. An added bonus of meal planning is that you can eat a lot healthier. A quick ten-minute look ahead for the week will not only save you from eating fast food but can also help you maintain a balanced diet. Set aside a little bit of time each week, and it will really set you up for success.
Weekly Meal Planning
Each week your meal plan might look different depending on work schedules, after school activities, and evening commitments. Each week when you start your meal planning ask yourself this series of questions.
Meals Needed & Grocery Budget
How many meals do you need to plan for? Think about what your family has going on this week. If your son has a dinner banquet on Thursday evening, you won’t need to plan a meal that night. If you have a lunch meeting at work on Friday, that is one less lunch. Taking a quick inventory will give you a good estimate of how many meals to plan this week.
What is your grocery budget? Depending on how much you want to spend this week on groceries, you can plan cheaper meals if necessary. Another option is to look into foods that are in season as more cost effective foods for the week. Or if you got a bonus at work and want to live a little more on the edge, you can plan a more extravagant meal for Saturday night.
How Much Time & Everyone’s Wants
What do you have time for? If this week is full of soccer practice, late night meetings, and chores then it is a week to plan for easy meals. On busy weeks, a crock pot is your best friend. Incorporate crock pot meals or microwave meals into this week’s meal planning. Crock pots are also notorious for their easy clean up. During a busy week, the last thing you need is more home cleaning tasks on your plate so think of cleanup during your meal planning as well. Learn how to clean a microwave and cleaning a crock pot.
What is your family requesting? Your family may have special requests for the week. If the weather is cold, warm chili might be on the menu. If your daughter has a birthday this week, she may request her favorite meal. Thinking about these things in advance will help your meal planning for the week.
Meal Planning Tips
Now it is time for the fun part! Once you know how many meals you need, your budget, your time constraints, and special requests it is time to actually set this week’s menu. Here are some tips to help your meal planning go quickly and smoothly.
Incorporate leftovers into your meal planning. Leftovers are great for both lunches and dinners. You can even plan to make extra so that you have plenty of food for the week. Read ideas for a better breakfast.
Master Recipes & New Recipes
Create a master recipe list. This will be your go-to meals. You probably already have an idea of what they are. If your family eats spaghetti fairly regularly, that will likely be on your list. Have enough of these recipes available so that your family doesn’t get burnt out on any one of them.
Find a couple of new dishes to try. Add in something new each week (unless it is a super busy week). Finding new recipes is super easy these days. Use the web to find delicious and healthy meals. Remember to consider cleanup with each of these meals. Meal preparation and after dinner cleanup can add hours to your home cleaning so make sure you consider that in your meal planning.
Create a grocery list. Each meal on your master recipe list should have a grocery list associated with it. As you find your new recipes, quickly jot down a list of ingredients. Then do a quick inventory of your pantry and refrigerator to find out what you already have. Your grocery list will be comprised of what else is needed.
Now that you’ve done all of your meal planning, all that is left is the shopping! Having a detailed list will help make your shopping trip quick and painless. You will also save a bunch of money because you won’t be tempted to buy everything that you see at the store since you already have a detailed list. Meal planning is going to make you healthier, save you money, and save you time both in home cleaning and meal preparation. If you invest a little bit of time each week, it will pay off!