I’m going to let you in on a little secret on the easiest way to never stress about dinner again: meal planning. Since I began meal planning, I no longer hear the question “what’s for dinner?” and I can’t even begin to tell you how much it’s changed our lives. By carving out a little bit of time during the weekend to plan the week ahead, I save a lot of time, money, and stress during the week. Here are a few pointers for getting started and getting into the habit of meal planning.
Check Your Calendar
When I sit down to meal plan, I grab my planner and Google calendar. I first see if there are any nights during the week that we may have an obligation, either my husband or I won’t be home for dinner, or we may be home later than usual. On those nights, I typically do a slow cooker meal so it is ready when we get home. For the past couple of months, Wednesday nights were our slow cooker nights because Kenley had soccer practice in the evening. It was so nice to come home and have dinner ready to be served. I also check our calendar to see if there any nights where we may be eating out. Eating out during the week is rare for us, but it’s one less night to plan if for some reason we aren’t home.
We tend to eat a lot of chicken and a lot of Mexican dishes in our house, so when I am meal planning, I try to space out these dishes during the week. I also try to add different types of meals through the week, such as a slow cooker meal, a casserole, or something on the grill. To add even more variety, I add a new dish to our menu every couple of weeks. I primarily use Pinterest for new recipes and dinner ideas these days and I organize all of my recipes on my slow cooker board and my yumminess board. Whether you keep your recipes digital or handwritten, have a system in place, it makes meal planning easier to have everything in one place. If I find myself stumped on what to have for dinner, I ask my husband if he has any ideas and I scroll through Pinterest for inspiration.
Make Your Grocery List
By meal planning, whoever does the grocery shopping that weekend has a grocery list. One of my biggest pet peeves is going to the grocery store more than once a week or during the week at all. I try my hardest to have our meals planned before either of us go to the grocery store. I’ll be honest, sometimes I am planning our meals in the car on the way to the grocery store, but I always like to have a plan. This allows us to focus on the items we need and not arbitrarily throw things in the cart that end up racking up the bill. We typically go to ALDI and Publix each weekend, so if we can’t find an item at one place, we’ll pick it up at the other. Thankfully, we rarely need to stop at the store during the week by having a meal plan and a grocery list.
Make Your Plan Visible
For the longest time, I would only write down our meals in my planner. I knew what we were having each night, but I was the only one looking at my planner so I was still getting the “what’s for dinner?” question often even though I knew what the answer was each time. Now, I make our menu visible right there in the kitchen for all to see so there is never a question on what we’re eating…or what needs to be prepped for the next day.
Do The Prep Work
Since both my husband and I work full-time, it’s better for us to prep our dinners as much as possible the night before. This may mean putting the casserole together so it just needs to be put in the oven, or getting all of the ingredients together so we can throw them in the pot when it’s time to make dinner. My husband does most of the cooking since he gets home before I do, so I try to have everything all ready for him to just throw on the stove or the grill.
Since I began meal planning, our weeknights have been less stressful, I am more organized, and we are intentionally eating healthy meals as a family. Give it a try for a couple weeks, I know you won’t regret it!