Are you tired of having to figure out dinner every. single. day on the fly? Not knowing what to make.
But then you figure it out what you want to find out you don’t have all the ingredients so you run to the store with kids in tow who want everything they see or you stop after work and then by the time you get home you are pooped.
Then at the end of the month you are like, where is all my money so you go through your credit card statements and realize you were at the grocery store 10 times and ate out 6 times. Oh that’s where that money and time went.
That was me. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Frustrated. 😒
I’m guessing since you are reading this, you an relate and you are sick and tired of this vicious cycle.
You want to get organized, reduce dinner time stress, and save some cash!
Well, my friend I feel you. 👏
Below are lots of great tips to get you one track.
I am not going to lie though, you are going to have to spend some time planning and organizing but after a while, you will have built great meal-planning muscles and will wonder why you didn’t do this years ago.
So when I meal plan, I only focus on dinners because I keep breakfast very simple – usually the same things and lunch is leftovers or something simple like sandwiches.
The idea here is to eat at home as much as you can and reduce the temptation to hit the drive thru when because you don’t have a plan. 🍔🍟
Create a list of your family’s favourite meals.
Think of as many as you can.
Ask your family what their favourite meals are.
Keep a list going for a few days so that when you think of one you can write it down before forgetting.
Pick approximately 5 of the simplest meals from your list and make sure you always have the dry ingredients on hand.
See the end of this post for my list of family favourite meals that use for meal planning every week.
Keep a very organized pantry, fridge, and freezer.
For your fridge, keep it clean and spacious so you can see what you have. If your fridge is packed with food, you are inevitably going to let things go to waste if you can’t see what you have.
Bring foods to the front that need to be eaten up quickly and use a role of masking tape and marker to label containers.
As for your freezer, approximately once a month go through it and see what needs to get used up. Work these foods into your meal plan.
Lastly the pantry. Since you probably have just non-perishable items in there, make sure it is very organized and tidy. Go through it when you go through your freezer when meal planning.
Take inventory every week.
One day a week, take an inventory of your freezer, pantry and fridge and plan some meals around what you already have. You gotta know what you have so you can use some of those ingredients in your meal plan.
If you have a stuffed pantry or freezer, have a few things in mind that you want gone asap and use them up in your first or second meal plan. Free up some space. This will also really help you keep your grocery budget down while you start using up what you have.
Check out my related post about Eating Great on a Tight Budget to help you save a ton of money in addition to meal planning.
Always have a grocery list going.
If you run out of something you need stocked like mustard or bread, make sure to write it down on your grocery list asap so you don’t forget!
Have one go-to meal.
This is your back up plan.
You know those days when your schedule gets tossed out the window? Maybe something came up at work, or you have a sick kid, or you just forgot to think about dinner until it was 5pm.
When this happens have something stocked that you can easily prepare. This could be a can of soup and tuna sandwiches. Or maybe you have some pre-cooked chicken in the freezer that will only take a few minutes to thaw.
From your simple-meal list, have one go-to meal to make in a pinch that you always have on hand. For me this is spaghetti and meat sauce.
Whatever it is, have one get out of jail free meal to save your butt when your meal plan doesn’t happen.
Weekly Meal Planning
On the same day each week, sit down to do your meal plan.
At first this will take you a while (up to an hour) to do your meal plan since you are a beginner. But after a while, it should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Some people can meal plan for a whole month but that doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what next week will look like let alone three weeks from now. And I know I will change my mind if I plan to far in advance. However, when I plan one week at a time, I am rarely tempted to change my plan unless my schedule changes.
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Look at your calendar for the week.
What do you have going on? Kids activities? Working late? Plan meals around your weekly schedule.
For instance, if you are going to be out all day:
- use a slow cooker
- use a electric pressure cooker
- cut up your meat and veggies the night before
- make the rice the night before
- take meat out the night before to thaw.
- plan very simple meals like soup and sandwiches.
Step 2: Check flyers for great deals.
With your grocery store flyers handy and your freezer, pantry and fridge inventory in mind, plan your meals. Remember to refer to your list of favourite meals.
Step 3: Create your shopping list based on your meal plan.
Step 4: Check if you need to add your everyday foods like milk and bread.
Step 5: Note the thaw, prep and cook time of recipes/meals.
Do this for each meal and plan meals on certain days according to the amount of time you have to dedicate to making it.
Like mentioned above, you can do the prep the night before so you only have the meal time to think about. For instance, if you need an hour to cook a lasagna, plan this for a day that you are home.
Add the thaw, prep and cook time to your meal plan so when you are looking at it the night before, you will know if you need to thaw anything and how much time you will need.
Step 6: Go shopping!
Make sure to only buy what is on your list.
Don’t go shopping hungry.
Step 7: Wash your fruits and veggies.
I wash my fruit and veggies in water with a few glugs of vinegar for at least 20 minutes. I know a glug isn’t an accurate measurement but I am going to guess that I use about 1/2 a cup of vinegar in a large bowl or in my kitchen sink (that I wash out very well).
Step 8: Cut your veggies.
If you have the time, you can save a ton of time by cutting the veggies up for the next meal or two.
Step 9: Freeze your meats.
If you buy a bunch of meat, freeze it all into meal sizes before freezing. This will prevent you from thawing too much meat.
Save your recipes to Pinterest.
I only have a few cookbooks because they take up too much space. Also, I like keeping my recipes saved to my Pinterest boards to keep them organized.
Check out my Pinterest boards here to see how I do it.
Basically, I have a bunch of recipe boards. Here are some of them:
When I am meal planning, I will sometimes look at these boards for inspiration and when I select a recipe, I save it to my “Meal Plan” board.
Then I have all the recipes I plan to make in one spot. As I make them, I remove them from the this board. They are saved to a different board already, so I am not losing them.
Keep your meal plan posted where you can see it.
This will help keep you on track when you walk by it a zillion times. It will stay at the forefront of your brain.
Look at it in the morning and at night. This will keep you focused and organized on your meal plan.
When cooking your dinners, make sure to make enough for your lunches the next day or even a whole meal that you can freeze!
If you are making a lasagna or meatloaf, make extra to throw into the freezer. You are already going through the trouble of making it and usually it doesn’t take much extra time to make a double or triple batch.
One method of keeping things easy to plan is to create theme nights. This will create a consistent routine and reduce stress. Here are some examples:
- Monday: Pasta
- Tuesday: Tacos
- Wednesday: Slow Cooker
- Thursday: Freezer meal
- Friday: Homemade Pizza
- Saturday: Soup & Sandwich
- Sunday: Roast Beef
Don’t feel like you have to have a theme night every night of course. However, some people do!
Make freezer-to-slow cooker meals.
Once in a while, dedicate a few hours to making some freezer to slow cooker meals that you can cook on those days when life gets in the way and your schedule gets turned upside down.
This will eliminate the temptation to go through the drive thru or grab something from the grocery store you don’t need!
Check out my Freezer to Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Meals Pinterest Board for ideas.
Keep your old meal plans.
Sometimes, you can just repeat an old meal plan or get inspiration from one.
My list of family favourite meals.
Here is my list:
- Lasagna Soup
- Oven baked or BBQ chicken, rice, and a veg
- Meatloaf (Beef)
- Turkey Meatloaf
- Soup and Sandwiches
- Chicken Stir-fry
- Chicken Parmesan Casserole
- One-pot Skinny Creamy Garlic Noodles
- Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast
- Slow Cooker Asian Sweet Chili Sesame Chicken
- Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken & Veg
- Sheppard’s Pie
- Southwest Chicken Casserole
Call to Action.
Get started! You won’t regret it. You will save money, have a more organized home, reduce stress, and eat healthier. Who doesn’t want that!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the information and ideas I have given you, don’t worry. Just implement one thing at a time.
Remember, strive for progress not perfection.
Let me know what you think of this post by making a comment below.
What is on your family favourite meal list?
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