Simple Tips to Start Meal Planningposted by Andrea | 05/24/2011
I hear women talking, or even posting on Facebook, about the fact that it is 4:30 PM and they probably should figure out what to do for dinner.
Of course by that time, they generally realize it’s really too late to actually make a decent meal. And after rummaging through their pantries, they realize it is just impossible to make a dinner with what they have on hand.
I personally did this often in the beginning of my married life, so I know all too well how stressful meal time becomes.
This is where menu-planning comes in..
When I started menu-planning, I started for one week. I sat down, wrote out the days of the week, and would simply write down what I would make for dinner on that day. After I got comfortable with doing the one week plan, I moved onto a two-week menu, and eventually branched out to planning one month at a time.
I get a lot of praise and comments that I must be Super-mom when people find out I menu plan for a month, but in reality it isn’t as hard as meal planning for just a week.
Here are some helpful tips to make menu-planning a success whatever the length of your menu plan.
1. Shop your pantry and freezer first.
Food shopping bills can be drastically reduced just by making sure you use up what you have already bought. As you make your menu plan, base your meals around your pantry and freezer. (This is made much easier by keeping an inventory list taped to the outside of your freezer and pantry).
2. Re-use meal plans.
As my husband tells me “there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.” I personally keep my menus saved on my computer and sometimes all I do is just change the dates on them. This is especially helpful for the weeks I know I’ll be super busy and will not have time to try new recipes.
3. Make each night a “themed” night.
For example, Monday night is pasta night, Tuesday is anything beef, Wednesday is chicken for dinner, etc. This way you can easily plug in whatever fits that theme from your favorite recipes.
4. Plan according to your calendar.
Make sure to look at your normal calendar as you menu plan. This will help you to remember to include birthday meals, holiday dinners, etc. Also, you’ll know if you need to plan a quick supper due to evening activities, meetings, and sporting events.
5. Use leftovers for “free” nights.
If you often have leftovers, or have days where you do not know if you will be out and about at dinner time, make those “free” nights. This ensures that nothing goes to waste.
These simple tips can help you avoid those frantic dinner time decisions. It will also give you more control over how much you spend. Remember that while it may take some time to learn how to do this successfully, you will eventually be able to churn out meal plans in no time.
For more meal planning help, check out my free printable menu planning worksheets.
Kelly blogs at A Full Table, a small but growing foodie blog that desires to provide practical recipes thatwill work with families. She is married to her best friend and a mother to five (and one or two waitingfor her in Africa). She keeps busy through homeschooling, learning graphic and web design in her sparetime, and filling out paperwork for the adoption process. Kelly is also a life-time learner, researchingtopics as she is able to satisfy her curiosity.