Where to Start Your Meal Planning
Before you begin, meal planning may seem like a daunting and over-complicated process. You might be wondering, “why waste time planning what I’m going to cook when I can just decide on the spot?” You may not even realize it, but at-home cooks waste a great deal of time thinking about what they are going to make for dinner when they have not planned their meals ahead of time.
So don’t just stand in front of your pantry scratching your head! When you take the time to outline a plan for the week, you save time and money and you also have the chance to get really creative in the kitchen! If you want to try out meal planning but don’t know quite where to begin, read on.
For the record, I’m not saying you’ll be a meal planner overnight especially if you are not inclined to do so in the present moment but if you give it a try at least once a week to plan a couple of meals, you can ease on into it.
Find Your Recipes
If you find yourself in a rut where you are putting the same meals on the table over and over, you should try looking for new recipes that interest you. Find your meal-inspiration! Look through one of your cooking magazines, browse the supermarket, do an online search, or pull out an old family cookbook. There are endless recipes you can try that will be suitable for the entire family. I seem to find recipes everywhere. This week a friend sent a bunch of the most delicious peaches from Harry & David and of course there was an interesting recipe for Peaches Castellano, grilled peach halves stuffed with blue cheese and nuts. Yummm!
“Just Do It”
The hardest part of meal planning is knowing where to start. I like to abide by Nike’s famous slogan: “just do it.” Once you try planning out your meals a couple times, you will to realize how helpful it can be. Start out slowly and plan just one or two meals for the week in advance. Find a recipe you want to try for Friday night’s family dinner and compile the necessary ingredients. Soon you will get into the habit of regularly planning your meals!
Keep an Inventory List
I don’t necessarily recommend shopping from your pantry first for inspiration during the meal planning process. It’s best if you find a recipe that you like, see what ingredients you already have in your kitchen, and then shop for the rest. However, it’s helpful to keep an inventory list of what you have in order to get organized and ensure that perishable items get used in a recipe. Tape the list to the outside of your freezer or pantry and cross items off as you use them.
Keep Your Calendar In Mind
When you start planning your meals on a more regular basis, be sure to plan around your family’s calendar. You don’t have to plan for 7 meals a week if you know that you have a work dinner scheduled or if your kids will be out of the house for a sports game on a particular night. Think about what nights you might like to go out, order in, or eat leftovers. Some dishes are served even better a day or two after, which will alleviate the stress of preparing another night’s meal.
Plan Each Night According To A Theme
When you eat based on a different theme each day, you will be able to stick to a basic plan as well as add more variety to your weekly meals. For example, maybe Tuesday is Chinese night and Fridays are barbeque nights. Having a different themed cuisine for each night of the week is fun, provides variety, and alleviates the stress of choosing what to eat.
Be Flexible & Creative
Just because you have a menu planned for the week does not mean that it is set in stone. I recommend that you are flexible enough to make changes as the week goes on. Think about company you might be expecting, your family’s food limitations and preferences, as well when it would be best to use certain ingredients. And above all: be creative! Find cool recipes you have never tried or make recipes your own by adding unique touches.