My Favorite Top Five Meal Planning Tips
Meal planning: a fairly basic concept that can transform the way that you prepare meals for you and your family. Planning ahead can do wonders for the meal-related stress you may experience at dinner time: kids are nagging, the dog is underfoot, and your spouse is minutes away from coming home. And of course, the nightly question you hear once the clock strikes 5 o’clock: “What’s for Dinner?”
If you know anything about my approach to cooking and preparing meals, you know that am I big advocate for meal planning. I don’t always remember to plan and prepare ahead of time but when I do, I can tell you that the process is much easier and stress-free. If you need convincing as to why you should start, see my post entitled “8 Reasons Why You Begin Meal Planning.” If I have already convinced you into planning ahead, read on for more tips about how to maximize your meal-planning potential.
Tip #1: Find and Consolidating your Favorite Recipes
There is nothing worse than saying to yourself “oh where was that one recipe I found in a culinary magazine last month?” Locating all your favorite recipes that you seem to re-use over and over again in one place makes the process much easier on you. There are multiple iphone, IPad, and Android applications that organize and save recipes in an easily-accessible manner.
Paprika is one of my favorites—check out my review of the application I have written for people interested in taking meal planning to the next level. Every recipe you would ever want can be found on the internet and saved easily in an app on your phone. But the beauty of applications like Paprika? You can manually enter any recipe or ingredient NOT found online, thereby customizing your own personal recipe book.
Tip #2: Find a Time to Plan
Find a time, maybe on the weekends, to plan out your meals for the week. If you take even 30-45 minutes out of your busy schedule to write down your meals and the necessary components, you will never be caught in a food bind again during the work week. Pick a shopping day and complete everything in one fell swoop. This way, you aren’t running out to the grocery store last minute on a hectic night.
Plan meals around a sale at your local store— i.e., a strip steak sale happening on a Saturday would be a good day to buy ingredients for the week. This step is as simple as grabbing your smart phone (or pen and pencil for us old fashioned folks) and jotting down what you and your family would like to eat and what day would be best to hit the supermarket.
Take a look at recipes online, ask your husband, wife, life partner, children, etc. and start planning out a few ideal meals and when to shop for them. You will start to notice huge difference in meal preparation if this simple step is taken care of ahead of time.
Tip #3: Multitask for the Week
Need certain ingredients for a dinner on Wednesday? Prep them on Monday before you organize your meal for that night! If something requires zesting or roasting, it’s best to do that early rather than later.
Multitasking is especially helpful in the heat of the summer when you are trying to use the oven sparingly. If two meals in the same week require the same chopped ingredient, chop them all at once, don’t go back a second—or even third—time!
Take a look at the comprehensive meal plan you have carefully created for the week and wherever possible, kill two birds with one stone. Or, chop two vegetables with one knife….
Tip # 4: Plan for Leftovers
If you make a meal one night, plan to use the same ingredients for a different meal the following evening.
Don’t waste food!More importantly, don’t waste a creative food-opportunity!
Left over baguette stick? Perfect for French onion soup the next night. Left over roast chicken? There are dozens of meals you can make with leftover chicken: make a pasta dish, chicken fajitas, chicken soup, the possibilities are endless!
Indulged in a delicious family steak dinner? Use the left over steak in a Shepherd’s Pie the next night. You can also make a double batch of your favorite weekly-meal and freeze it for a night you aren’t up to cooking. A lazy evening does not mean you have to scrounge up a sub-par meal! Sometimes a certain ingredient is even better the next night…
Tip # 5: Keep the Necessary Ingredients and Tools on Hand
One of my most important tips is to keep a well-stocked pantry. No matter how organized you are, you can’t plan for everything. There is always a time that you might need to grab something from your pantry that you forgot to add to your shopping list on your meal planning day. Having an abundance of staple ingredients and supplies in your pantry will help get you out of a pinch.
Last but not least: buy a vacuum sealer. This tool is essential to keep your food sealed freshly for days on end. You can get these anywhere from Best Buy to Amazon and are fairly inexpensive tools for their effectiveness.
It’s really as simple as that. Get to planning, friends!