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I LOVE to meal plan. I like to cook and I like to be organized, so this comes naturally. I have to have a plan and it saves me time and money to do some advanced planning and figure out what we are eating for the week. Here are five quick meal planning tips that I live by. I hope they help you too!
Sit down and write down your meals.
Sometimes “meal planning” can be intimidating. But the thing is, you just have to sit down and do it. I use this fabulous notepad to write out our meals for the week. And then this one to tackle our grocery list. (They are both pictured below.) The grocery list has saved me a few times when I realized I came across something we were out of but wouldn’t have thought of on a blank sheet of paper.
So how do you just sit down and meal plan?
- I choose 1 or 2 new recipes. No more. That’s too much stress. I have a list of recipes on my Pinterest account that I want to try. So usually I try one of those or try something from a friend or magazine.
- Then I depend on one freezer meal. Either something that has been prepared to cook in the crock pot or maybe something we ate before and froze half of.
- And the rest easy meals (quesadillas, salad and frozen chicken) or eating out a meal or two.
Inventory your freezer.
Every few months, I try to do a real thorough inventory of our freezer. Do I have lots of ground beef in there? A frozen soup I forgot about? If you don’t want to waste food, keep an eye on things in your freezer and then add them to your meal plan.
Even better is keeping a running list written down so you KNOW what’s in there. Keep a notepad and pen on top of the freezer or a magnet attached. Then add and cross off as needed. Even add the dates so you can choose something older.
Cook once, eat twice.
I have two little girls who are not the best eaters in the world. So when I make a full size recipe, my husband and I eat it, the girls try it, and then we usually have a lot left over. Instead of eating the same thing for three days (which we do do sometimes) we usually eat it and then pack away the leftovers in the freezer for a few weeks out. This makes a yummy future meal and gives us more variety over the week.
When I had my second daughter we had a great network of mamas providing us meals right after her birth. We would often eat one meal out of the food and then freeze the rest. This really stretched those awesome meals.
Buy all the frozen onions. (And any other shortcuts too.)
I enjoy chopping vegetables (Especially celery. Is that weird??) but onions REALLY make me cry. Like really. So unless the recipe really needs long stringy vegetables, you will probably find me using frozen onions. This is a major time saver for me. Plus, frozen onions are not expensive and they keep forever, unlike that half of an onion I usually throw out. There are other time savers too… prewashed salad, chopped broccoli and cauliflower mix. Not all of these are money savers, but sometimes time is more important.
And why you are buying a few convenience foods, have you thought about scheduling groceries online? I don’t mind shopping for groceries, but about half the time I schedule groceries for a pick up. If your area has it, I highly recommend giving it a try. I pay a few pennies more per item and then a $6 fee, but I know I spend less on impulse items.
Have a freezer meal workshop.
I have had three freezer meal workshops at my house with friends, using both Pampered Chef and Wildtree. I am currently planning my fourth. I love them. It forces me to get it done. 10-20 meals, depending on how many servings. Hanging out with friends. Trying out new recipes. A recent recipe roundup post gives some pictures of the Wildtree Meals I made. These are also Whole 30 approved.
I know there are also blogs that describe making a ton of freezer meals that I could try on my own. But I haven’t ever done that. There is something about committing to a date and having people over that really makes it happen. And the recipes are always awesome.
There is also the option of trying one of the meal delivery services. I tried Green Chef a while back and really thought the quality was excellent.
So those are 5 meal planning tips that I hope help inspire you to cook more, get more organized, and try out different recipes. Let me know what other tips work for you below in the comments! I want to learn more too!