Meal planning is something a lot of people struggle with and I am no exception. Some weeks I just lack inspiration or I’m burnt out on thinking about food. But I know it’s worth it to plan for the week ahead and makes the evenings go so much smoother.
So I’m not reinventing the wheel every week, I approach my menu by doing the following steps:
1| Check my calendar. If we have a busier week than usual with after work plans I’ll choose easier meals. Utilizing the crock pot, heating up frozen turkey burgers or just simple PBJ’s is perfectly ok!
2| Review my inventory. I open the fridge and see what would carry over a few more days. Then I peek in the pantry to see what we’re running low on and check out what is stock piled in the freezer. If I know we have a huge bag of broccoli in the freezer, I’ll plan on incorporating that into a quiche or stir fry.
3| Browse my pinned recipes and cook books. I usually spend 15 minutes or less checking out my various recipe boards on Pinterest. If you don’t have boards made, start one and begin saving meals that look good to you! Consider making a “To Try” board and “Tried and Loved” board.
4| Pick one family favorite and one new recipe for each week. I like trying new recipes, but it’s nice to balance one new one each week with a few family go-to’s so you’re not stressed learning new recipes every night.
3| Cook once, eat twice. Who has time to cook 6-7 dinners every week?! Cooking meals that last at least 2 nights is a time and money saver. And if you’re short a serving or two the next night, get creative and stretch your meal further by opening up a can of beans or steaming up frozen veggies. If you’re put off by microwaved leftovers, try the stove top, toaster oven or oven set to broil for better texture (broiling is especially handy for foods that were originally crispy). You can also cook more than your family will eat and freeze some for a later date (your future self thanks you!)
5| Split up the week and prep ingredients for those meals. When I cut fruit or veggies for the entire week, usually by Wednesday they’re all dried out and slimy or smelling less than fresh. So I prep for the first half of the week and then on Wednesday nights I will prep for the second half.
PRO TIP | Plan meals according to grocery sales. Check your local grocery store sales to see what days are best for buying what you need. Pick your “prep day” of the week (mine is Sunday) and plan to have needed items ready to go by then. We invested in a deep freezer a few years ago so I can buy extra when something goes on a great sale. Locally, my Earth Fare has deals on grass fed beef on Tuesdays. The Fresh Market has organic chicken breasts for $2.99lb. too. It’s challenging to find coupons for healthy options, so I rely on these sales as a way to save.
Hopefully this list is helpful when thinking about what to cook for the week. Meal planning is work but it helps me to get excited about the week ahead and not cave to impulse take out. What are some techniques you use that works for your family? Comment below and share your tips!