Meal Planning Tips
Make a list of everything you like to cook or everything you have eaten in the last month. This will give you a start on your list of meals and you can add to it when you find new things. The planner gives you a starter list that you can add to or amend to fit your needs.
Your meal plan can be reused from month to month or week to week. You can make three months worth of planners and then rotate them throughout the year. Or, at the end of the month or week, file the planner away until the next year. Then, you can bring it out a year later and have something to work from. I like this method, because then I can incorporate seasonal foods and my menus for July are distinctly different from the ones for December.
Plan to use left-overs. You can vary the sides or the appearance, but left-overs save time and money. For example, BBQ chicken on Wednesday can become BBQ chicken pizza on Friday. Or Meatballs can be used for Sweet and Sour and then later in the week for Hoagies. You can serve Lemon Chicken twice, but the second time, serve it with potatoes instead of rice pilaf.
Add recipes that you want to try to your planner. I am constantly printing or tearing out pages of new recipes, but if I don’t put them on my meal plan, I never make them.
Put your menu plan where you will see it. Save it on your desktop or print it out and put it on the fridge or the inside of a cupboard.
Be flexible. If you order pizza, move the planned meal to the first week of the next month. If you don’t feel like making Hamburgers, switch them with another night. The purpose of a meal plan is to make the dinner decision time less agonizing and to help you with your grocery shopping.
Create a recipe file. When you create your planner, spend some time collecting the recipes or write down the page numbers. That way you don’t spend all of your prep time searching for that fabulous recipe.
Involve your family. Ask for suggestions from your family for meals they want to eat for the month. There may be fewer complaints if they know they had a say in a few of the meals.
Look at your weekly schedule- what’s going on this week? Do you have to work late, do you have plans for dinner with friends, or a party?
Mark the days that meals will be difficult with a small “X” in the corner.
Put breakfast and lunches on autopilot until you get use to meal planning for a few weeks. Write down 2 or 3 options for breakfast and lunch (bagels or cereal for breakfast, leftovers or sandwiches for lunch). Plan mostly for dinners.
Choose easy dinners.
On a separate sheet of paper, list the items that you would need to create those meals.
Make sure that meals that need fresh ingredients are being eaten in the beginning of the week.