We all want to be better at getting healthy foods onto the table for our families. The best-laid plans can all go awry in the blink of an eye. Here are my 5 simple steps for meal planning success.
Check Family Schedules
Even the best-laid meal planning can go awry if you forget that appointment you have after works and won’t have time to cook. Making sure there is both time to cook and what time your family can meet at the table will help immensely.
Having a clear plan for the week’s schedule can help adjust your menu. Say your oldest has practice Tuesday after school and is planning on a friend coming home after. You would want to know what time they will be home, the fact you are feeding an extra mouth, and account for any differences in food needs for your guest.
Planning ahead is so important. If you can, schedule a family meeting each week to be able to plan ahead. If not, keep a family calendar posted so that each member of the family can write down their schedule. And if your family is tech-savvy, use a family calendar app shared across the family so everyone is in the loop.
Make Your Lists
Ever gone to the store without a list? Oh my, I just can’t. I end up with a bunch of things I don’t need, and forgetting half of what I do.
My system is to write down every ingredient I need for each meal on a shopping list. Then, I shop my inventory first. Why buy something again when you already have it?
Say you are making Taco Mac for Taco Tuesday. You would need ground beef, but you may not realize that you already have 3 pounds in the freezer. Using up what you have first helps your budget. And it saves you from wasting food.
Prep for the Week Ahead
Have a meal plan with a lot of vegetables involved? Save yourself precious weekday time by doing all of the chopping ahead of time.
A lot of time cooking is the prep work. Cooking at home, it would be wonderful if I had my own prep cook to help me. Ok, Todd does a great job helping me, but if his schedule is different than mine, it’s helpful to have this all done in advance.
This week we are doing a lot of crockpot meals. So my list is full of veggies that need to be chopped to get dumped in. I have all my onions, celery, carrots, etc. chopped and in air-tight glass containers ready to go. This can also work to make sauces ahead of time, or marinades, or anything that you are going to use during the week that may be a little more time-intensive than you would like.
Even the best laid plans can go awry. I am a planner by nature, but every once in a while something happens last minute that changes the nature of the game. From family emergencies to last minute overtime, you never know what can alter what your meal planning efforts.
Having a lot of prep work done ahead of time, you can easily choose an item on your plan that takes less time than what you had allotted for that day. Or maybe you can’t make anything, but you have leftovers or a frozen meal at the ready. Knowing that your meal planning schedule has options helps make sure that you have something on hand, no matter how tight you are on time.
Make Extras of Family Favorites
I’ve been freezer cooking for so long that most of my family favorites automatically get a double batch when I make them.
I make lasagna for dinner, and one for the freezer. If I’m making cabbage and noodles, I chop enough cabbage and smoked sausage to toss into a freezer bag too. Having meal planning options in convenient bags or dishes can help make even the most stressful night less hectic.
Need some more ideas on what to make to put into your freezer? Check out my Top 10 Chicken Freezer Meals.
Meal Planning Success Story
Meal planning does not have to be as difficult as some people make it. It’s actually just like any other habit. Once you get used to doing it, it’s second-nature to keep it up.
Having a good foundation to start the meal planning habit is key. I hope these steps help you find your groove and you become a meal planning success story.
And don’t forget to grab my FREE Meal Planning Printables. They are designed to help you set a great foundation on becoming an expert at meal planning.