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What for dinner? Take the guesswork out of dinner preparations by learning these no-fail weekly meal planning ideas.
Simple Meal Planning Ideas That Work
Have you been telling yourself for a while that you need to start making a weekly meal plan? And you just seem at a loss on where to start. After all, we are all dealing with busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters. The dinner struggle is real.
Not to worry because here you will find weekly meal planning ideas that work. But your first lesson in saving your sanity is to sit down with your calendar and write out a plan. Meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it.
Meal prep and meal planning are invaluable skills to master if you want to avoid takeout food every night and dishing out money on convenience meals. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite menu planning tips. After all, over the years I have become a real rockstar at it and you too will become a champ in no time.
Shop Your Fridge and Freezer First
Meal planning is NOT just about what you think you might want to eat for dinner this week. A good meal planner knows to shop for their fridge and freezer first before sitting down and planning out the rest of the week.
Why? You ask. This way you make sure that you eat what is at risk of going bad first, which will save you money and reduce your food waste.
After you have made a note of that leftover rotisserie chicken, produce that is turning soft, or lettuce that you need to use, you can decide what to do with it. Incorporate those items into your meal plan for the week. You can also learn how freezer cooking can help you save even more time when you have the time to do it.
Stop Waiting on the Perfect System
Stop waiting to begin meal planning until you find the “perfect” meal planning system. There are so many ways to meal plan and chances are that not all of them will work for you. The best meal planning system for you is the one that you actually use, so just do what works for you.
Whatever system you settle on, give it at least a month to work before you try something different.
Start the Week Off Right
Monday is often one of the most frustrating days of the week as we get back into our regular routine after a weekend off. If you successfully stick with your meal plan on Monday, you are more likely to stick with it for the rest of the week.
So, make things easy on yourself when it comes to Monday night’s dinner. Pull out a freezer meal, or make something easy that you have cooked a thousand times before. Monday is not the day to try out a brand-new, multi-step recipe.
Prep After Purchase
Prep as much of your food as you can as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Wash your salad greens, slice your squash and zucchini, peel those carrots, and dice those peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
This will have you a step ahead when it comes to preparing dinner for the rest of the week.
You can also cook components of your meals so that you aren’t starting every night’s dinner preparation from zero. Brown your ground beef, then cool it and store it for a skillet meal or pasta dish later in the week. Go ahead and make a pasta sauce or roast a chicken for later in the week.
Having some of your ingredients prepared ahead of time means less time in the kitchen preparing dinner during the week. Here is my all-time favorite Meal Prep Cookbook. It is filled with ideas and tons of good tips, especially for the beginner meal planner. And goes through cooking components.
Use a Template
It can be hard to decide what to make for the week when you are sitting down staring at a blank sheet of paper.
Make it easier on yourself by using a template like pasta night, salad night, pizza night, bowl night, taco night, rice night, or soup night. This can help to keep you focused and make it easier to choose a recipe for each night’s dinner.
You can get free menu planning printables here from Inspiring Savings.
Ask Your Family
Chances are you are the one doing most of the prepping, cooking, and shopping for dinner every night, so why not get your family to help with the planning?
Ask each family member what are some of the meals that they would like to have included in your meal plans for the week. This can be especially helpful if you have children or a spouse who could be a picky eater.
We have a two-vote system in our house. If two people agree to a dinner menu idea, it gets added to the calendar. This has stopped a lot of arguments in our home. We have a family of four, so this is a 50/50 rule. And everyone knows how the system works.
I hope that these meal planning tips will help you to get a delicious meal on the table every night of the week. Helping you to menu plan without having to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. A huge GOAL accomplishment.