Meal Planning Tips

Do you wait until one hour before dinner to think, “What am I going to cook?
How about when you go grocery shopping: do you buy something that looks good, only to throw it away because you “never got around to it,” or just plain forgot you had it?
Well, planning your meals ahead of time will eliminate those problems. I used to think that it was “too hard” to plan a week’s meals, prepare the shopping list and gather the recipes. But I’ve since learned that it’s a lot faster in the long run. And really lowers that before dinner stress level!

Once you have several meal plans made up, you’ll be able to “mix and match” them for more variety. You can also “cheat” by using my meal plans and recipes, or one of those found everywhere on the Internet!

Preparing to Plan

Before you start to actually plan the menus, you need to know something about how busy your week is going to be. For nights that you know are going to be busy, choose a meal that is quick to fix. On the other nights, you can have meals that are more elaborate if you wish.

What You’ll Need

I use a “Meal Planning Notebook” to help kick-start my weekly plans. In that notebook I keep my weekly routine (based on what days of the week are usually the busiest for me). Plan specific types of meals for certain days of the week to make it easier. For instance, pasta on a busy Monday, chicken on Tuesday, take-out pizza on Friday. You get the idea!
I also keep the recipes I use most in that notebook along with a Master Grocery Shopping List. While planning the meals, I go though the recipes and check off the ingredients I need on the Grocery List.

TIP: Keep a copy of your Grocery List on your refrigerator so you can easily check off other items, like milk, margarine, or salad greens that you are low on.
Just Do It!

Now, “try” to find a time when you’re not busy (yeah right!?) to create your meal plans. Remember, one day at a time and it will soon add up to seven and a full week of menus!
For each day, decide on your main dish, vegetable, salad and dessert. If you have family members who are on special diets, such as diabetics, keep their requirements in mind as you’re planning. Don’t forget to check off the ingredients you don’t have on your Grocery List!

Keep each week’s menu in your Meal Planning Notebook so you can look back and use them again at a later time. In fact, once you have several month’s worth, just start at the beginning and use them over again!

Once you have your Meal Plans and your shopping list complete, your shopping trip will be a lot easier. Try to shop on the same day each week. I usually go on a Sunday after I’ve finished my meal planning session.

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