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8 Tips to Start Meal Planning
1. Make a List of Regular Favorite Meals
We all have routine favorites that we make weekly or every few weeks. Make a list of all you can think of, and don’t forget to ask your family what their favorites are too. You’ll be surprised how many meals are on the list after you are done and probably will have almost 3 weeks mapped out!
2. Think of meals that can be made with the same meat.
Not only will this help save money, but it also saves time. If we plan for chili one night why not put shepherds pie on the meal plan that week and brown all the ground beef at the same time! Or plan to grill out chicken? Add a few extra on the grill and then use that for Chicken Fajitas or Enchiladas another night this week. Planning it out ahead of time ensures that you use the leftovers rather than forgetting about them!
3. Start Small With a Weekly Plan
There is no need to go huge when you are making your first meal plan. Start small with just one week. Many of us don’t even know what we are doing next week, so trying to plan to far ahead will mean that you are constantly moving meals around or not following the plan at all. If you want to go super easy, download the April meal plan we made!
4. Get Your Calendar Out
Before you start assigning meals to certain days it’s best to know what is going on that day. Do you have soccer practice, meetings or possibly a trip? A day that you are on the go is a perfect day for a crockpot meal, or one of 100 favorite instant pot meals. When we have AHG Troop meetings that’s our night for picnic dinner (many times eaten in the car on the way). Looking at the calendar will save last minute crisis moments and trips for fast food!
5. Plan your side dishes as well as entrees.
Sides for us tend to be fresh vegetables, and salad. If I don’t plan these with the meals two things happen. First I tend to over buy in the grocery store, not thinking about how much we need. This normally leads to waste when they go bad. The second problem with unplanned sides is that I’ll forget what produce I did buy and then again it goes bad before it is used.
6. Only add one new recipe a week at first.
Many folks when they start meal planning go big and pick all new recipes. You’ll get exhausted trying to be Martha Stewart right out of the gate, and your family may not like it as much as the trusty stand-by’s. New recipes also tend to call for things you don’t have in the pantry, so adding a number of new recipes to the meal plan can really increase your grocery costs.
7. It’s okay to plan simple meals.
Seriously, writing Hamburger Helper on your meal plan is okay! In case you didn’t know every house is messy and we aren’t all living in the pages of Southern Living. If the family loves it… cook it! A few favorites in our house are Campbell’s Skillet Sauces, and Tasty Bite Curry Sauce & Seasoning mixes.
8. Put your menu plan front and center in the kitchen.
This will help you stick with it! I do want you to be flexible, but the easiest way to be flexible is to switch up what night to have each meal, not to throw the whole plan out. Having the meal plan front and center will also teach the kids to stop asking what’s for dinner… just go look at the meal plan!