Meal Planning Tips

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Now that I spend a lot more time at home, I've started cooking more regularly and planning our weekly menu. When we lived in Northern Virginia and I worked full time (not getting home until 6:30), I failed miserably at cooking dinner. By the time I finally got home from work, all I wanted to do was spend time with Baby K until her bedtime at 8 and by then I definitely didn't want to tackle cooking dinner. So we ordered in a lot.

I've always wanted to cook regularly because I really enjoy cooking, but my busy schedule didn't allow it. Which is a reason I am very thankful for our change in lifestyle. When I first started meal planning, I had absolutely no clue where to start. But now that I've been meal planning for several months, I've picked up some tips and tricks along the way. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you as well.

  • Make a list of every meal that your family likes and keep it somewhere that you can easily access.
    This makes it easy for me to determine what we will eat instead of having to just remember all of our favorite dinners. On my list, next to each meal I will write where the recipe is located so I can easily find it when I'm ready to cook (i.e. pinterest, cook book, blog)
  • Meal plan by the week to allow for the inevitable schedule changes.
    I have a friend who meal plans by the month and she is my absolute hero! Meal planning by the week works best for us as stuff always comes up. I will sit down with Tolar on Sunday nights and plan out our week, determining when we have events that will cause one of us (or both of us) to be out of the house for a specific night.
  • Check your pantry to see what items you already have on hand.
    When deciding what we will eat each night, I always like to see what I already have before I buy anything new. Usually I can come up with one or two dinners based on food items I already have (this is a cost saving tip too!).
  • Grocery shop once a week.
    After I plan out what meals we will have for the week, I write my grocery list and include items for every dinner. By only going to the grocery store once a week, I save myself a lot of time because I will already have everything on hand when it is time to cook dinner. Of course there are times when I forget something and send Tolar to the store on his way home for class, but overall I just go once a week.
  • Don't forget to schedule leftover nights!
    Every night doesn't have to be something new, scheduling a night for leftovers is perfectly fine. If you don't schedule a night for leftovers they will likely go bad, which just wastes money. I like to schedule a leftover night once a week which is a nice break for me!
  • Try to schedule meals that use similar ingredients in the same week, if a recipe calls for an ingredient you don't use regularly.
    If I plan a meal that calls for plain greek yogurt, I always try to plan two meals. We don't like to eat plain greek yogurt by itself, so if I don't use all of the yogurt it will go bad. The same is true with lettuce. If I plan to have a salad one day, I will later plan to have tacos and use the lettuce on those. The trick is to making sure your perishable ingredients will get used.
  • Search for inspiration to add variety to your weeks.
    I'm constantly searching pinterest for new recipes to try so we don't get bored eating the same thing. Recently I started searching for crock pot and clean eating recipes to add some new dinners to our rotation. If you need some inspiration, here is my dinner Pinterest board.

    What about you? Do you meal plan and have any tips that you can share? I'd love to read your tips in the comments below.


  1. These are great tips, lady! I feel you on some days not wanting to cook, but when there is a plan it's a lot easier. We used to use Pollo Rico as our go to when we didn't feel like cooking. Isn't it the best chicken ever?

  2. These are definitely great tips that make life so much easier. I dont know how people go to the grocery store multiple times a week--that sounds like torture to me. One and done (unless you forget something) is so much easier!

  3. I have done all these things in the past, now days with Tim and I eating at different times and having different meals I don't cook much at all.

  4. Love these tips, Lindsay! I also make a list and grocery shop once a week. I love to make batches of stuff, so I have leftovers for me and Charlie to take to work for lunches, etc. :) I need to be better about taking inventory of what I already have on hand, though.

  5. Sounds like great ideas! We usually grocery shop Sunday evenings (after our naps, ha!) to prep for the week. It's worked out really well for us. We also use a "budget" at the store: meats MUST be $5 or less, and everything else $3 or less. Sometimes it doesn't always work out, depending on the meat selection, but we've gotten some great bargains and have made some pretty creative meals! I participated in the link up you and Katie have, so now I'm a new follower of yours!

    Chrissy @ Everyday with the Jays

  6. I love meal planning! It's especially good when you're cooking for one! Thanks for sharing some of your tips!


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