WTF Are You Making For Dinner Tonight? (Meal Planning 101)
Not knowing what you’re going to make for dinner sucks. So does sitting down and meal planning for the week. But which is worse?
Dinners don’t have to look like they came out of a foodie magazine. Even if you hate to cook, you can make healthy meals for your family that don’t take a lot of time or effort. All you need is a bit of forward thinking – and that means meal planning.
I go in waves. When I do it, I feel organised, in control and proud of the meals I make. I wonder why I don’t just do it every week. Other times I’ll sit with my blank meal planning chart – and come up empty. I’ll half-heartedly shuffle through my recipes, feel annoyed that I’m wasting time and finally head off to the supermarket without a game plan.
Food shopping without a plan means buying random stuff. Within two days I run out of crucial ingredients to make a proper meal, end up pulling pizzas out of the freezer – and have to do more food shopping (grrr….).
I’m on a roll with meal planning now and ready to share my streamlined system for making it fast and easy to do every week without fail.
1. Print out a 21 Meal Ideas Action Sheet
Having 21 different meals listed in one place gives you an instant source of 3 weeks of inspiration to choose from.
Choose dishes which fit these criteria:
1. Your family likes it. 2. It’s a no-brainer to make. 3. Easy to find ingredients.
This’ll be your go-to list for easy meal planning each week. If you’re ever feeling more ambitious, go off-piste and try something more adventurous, but for this list – keep it simple.
If you’re short of ideas, dig out your cookbooks. Which recipes are the most successful in your house? Ask your family for input. Search online for more recipes that fit the criteria. (Some recommended links below.)
Jot down where to find the recipe in the notes column.
Step one takes a bit of effort, but it’s an investment that’ll save you time (and money) from now on.
2. Print out a Weekly Meal Planner (plus a few extra to have handy for the coming weeks)
Plan your week’s meals. What does the week ahead look like? Is hubby here or away? Are you out for dinner? Have guests staying? Do the kids have extracurricular activities or play dates? Are there days you’ll be running around and with no time to prep? Planning meals around your schedule and lifestyle is the key to success.
3. Make your shopping list
Never, ever hit the shops without a list. Even if you order on-line, stick to your list. Look at your meal plan and write down the ingredients you don’t have. Scan your fridge and cupboards for other basics or extras you need (milk, bread, cleaning products, etc.).
Once you’ve bought your food, freeze the meat and fish you aren’t using until later in the week.
Put your Meal Planner where you can see it. Check what’s planned for the next day so you can defrost anything in the fridge overnight.
Make meal planning a habit – schedule it in each week like an important appointment.
See also How To Get Out Of A Kitchen Rut and LOVE Feeding Your Family. (yes, really!)
**UPDATED August 2018** I now use Gousto for 2-4 meals a week! I simply click on whichever dishes make me drool and a box with all ingredients and an easy-to-follow recipe card arrives to my front door! If you live in the UK and want to give Gousto a try, here’s my link to get 60% off your first box, and 30% off ALL boxes in your first month. (This has changed my life when it comes to all of the time I save in meal planning, food shopping and feeding my family!)
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Do you meal plan? What are some of your family’s no-brainer dinners? Please join in on the comments below.
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