Life is busy! We are constantly trying to eat healthier and fit more into our schedules. Making a homemade meal is easily put on the backburner. Picking up a convenience meal at the store or grabbing food from a local restaurant has become normal. These are easy ways to feed your family and spend a lot of money. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is going into your family’s mouths? The perfect way to achieve this is by cooking the meals yourself. The key to cooking amazing healthy meals is meal planning.
Meal planning may seem overwhelming to most, but spending some time on the weekend or at the beginning of each week will be key to your success. Planning is not complicated and you can organize an entire week or even a month at one time. It is a huge time saver later in the week and makes meal preparation less stressful and more enjoyable.
Here are 10 easy steps to guide you to successful meal planning:
- Sit down and look at your week
Are some days busier than others? Do you have to take the kids to extracurricular activities? Do you have a late meeting? These things are all important to take into consideration. The busier the evening, the simpler the meal needs to be.
- Recipes and meal ideas
What does your family like to eat? It is crucial to choose meals that your family likes. This will help you avoid meal-time frustration with kids that do not like the meal. It is a good idea to plan a few recipes with the same ingredients. Example: use cheddar cheese in tacos and mac and cheese in the same week. This overlap will help with your budget as buying in larger quantities is cheaper.
- Plan for leftovers
One or two nights of the week, probably towards the weekend, you may decide to have leftovers. This is a great way to save time and use up all those delicious meals you made earlier in the week. It may be helpful to put “leftover night” on a very busy day. Having dinner ready to go will make these days much calmer.
- Grocery list
What do you need from the store? Make a list of everything you need to purchase. Make the list in categories: fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats and grocery items. This organization will keep you from running across the store five times trying to locate something. The time spent organizing your grocery list is a real stress reducer when you are at the very busy grocery store. When you have a plan you can get in and out more efficiently.
- Go to the store
Purchase everything you need for the week. Be sure to buy enough of each item to avoid extra trips to the store. Your organized list will cut down time and make your trip to the store a breeze.
- Organize your refrigerator
It is a good idea to take a few minutes to organize your groceries into areas of the fridge. Something as simple as placing the vegetables for one recipe together will save you from searching the fridge when preparing your meal.
- Food preparation
This is optional, but it can be very beneficial to prepare food items ahead of time. This may include slicing and dicing vegetables, grating cheeses or pre-measuring ingredients. When you get home and are exhausted after a busy day everything is ready to go, you put the ingredients together with less stress and effort.
- Night before or morning prep
Do you need to pull your protein out of the freezer? Take out any items and place them in the fridge on a plate. This will avoid cross contamination with other food items and help you avoid a mess in your fridge. This method of taking items out the night or morning before will reduce meal time preparation as your item will be ready to go when you are ready to cook.
- Prepare your meal
The tough decisions have already been made. You know what you are making, you have the ingredients, this is already a win! Use all the prepared products you completed earlier in the week and make your meal with ease. Get the family involved if you wish, make it an experience.
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down to a home-cooked meal. Enjoy your creations and relish in your organization and stress-free approach to making a delicious meal.
These steps may seem complicated and time consuming, but I assure you that with some patience and perseverance you will succeed. It will become easier and you will become more efficient as you practice these steps. The amount of time you spend planning will be made up each night when you make your meals quickly and with ease.
Melissa Hryb is the chef at Marion Street Eatery, where she specializes in hearty comfort food with a twist.
Follow her on Twitter @MarionStreetEat or Instagram @MarionStreetEatery