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There is nothing worst than ending a busy day only to hear “what's for dinner?” and stand there scratching your head as you have no plan. If you are budget conscious then you know how eating out munches at your dough. Meal planning sounds overwhelming to many and I think it is because you don't start with the end in mind. And to the person who doesn't like the kitchen, it can really be a daunting task.
Creating a meal plan does not sound like fun but I promise you will like knowing that you family is eating healthy meals and you are wasting less money. To rid myself of the stress I created an effective meal plan system that everyone can follow.
What is a Meal Plan?
In simple terms, it is a strategy to map out what you will eat. It could be for the day, week, month or year. In other words, you define the terms and there is no right or wrong way do it.
Why You Should Meal Plan?
It will take the stress out of thinking about what your family will eat each day. Perfect for those who are not very interested in cooking. Totally like me, I cook because its part of the routine and I have a husband and kids to feed.
It gives you the freedom to plan with variety, so you don't eat the same thing every night.
It helps you save money, because you know in advance what you need to buy and it is not wasted. When you think ahead, you're more likely to plan healthier meals and also less likely to resort to fast food.
Last but not least, you save a lot of time that can be spent on more valuable things, like spending time with your children, self-care or whatever you want.
Things to Remember About Meal Planning
- Find your family's favorite foods
The food list (which you can download for free here), is a page where you will write down all those foods that you know your family likes. You can make them part of the process and ask them what they like or would like to eat.
It is very useful to keep those key foods in mind and make your planning process easier.
- Be realistic about your lifestyle
If you really want your meal planner to work, you must be realistic about your circumstances and your time.
For example, if you have family of picky eaters, don't make it hard for yourself by using recipes that you know won't be eaten.
Or if you are a busy sports family, don't plan elaborate meals daily.
- Have a planning template
My meal planning template is simple but effective, it is a meal planner with space for a shopping list. This helps me to make it very easy to know what I need weekly for each meal and not overspend.
- Cooking when you can
Preparing meals in advance can save you a lot of time during the week!
That doesn't necessarily mean you should prepare full meals, although you can do that, I'm not going to get into that business.
I'm talking about time-consuming dishes and leaving them ready in the refrigerator or freezer, like beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
You should simply prepare them with salt, separate them by meals and depending on the distance between meals with that same ingredient, you keep them in the refrigerator or directly freeze them. Nothing happens to them, the flavor doesn't change, the texture doesn't change and it saves you a lot of time.
- Cook once, eat twice
Another thing I love to do is double or triple a recipe and have it two or three days in a row.
If it's something your family loves to eat, it shouldn't be a problem.
If you have picky eaters who don't like to have the same thing two days in a row, you can do this for the main course and then as a side dish. For example, ground meat, I prepare enough for:
A rice dish, with ground meat and a side
Pasta with ground meat
Tacos (Who doesn't love Taco Tuesday)
This would save you 2 preparations of the same ingredient.
- Have your weekly menu at sight
In my house I do the weekly planning especially for dinner, and I display it in the kitchen. During school breaks, I write down all three meals to keep the kitchen flowing but since I pack school lunch, I often record that as well. Breakfast in my house is simple and doesn't generally require much prep except for the weekend.
Or the meal planner you print it out, fill it out and have it on the fridge door, so that everyone in the house knows what meals are budgeted for the week and if anyone offers to help they know what to do.
- Try something new once a week
When you have some time to plan and you are already a pro at this, try every week to make a different recipe. An ingredient that you want your kids to eat and they don't like (it counts for the husband too). I find that my family will try anything that has a sauce. Spaghetti and lasagna are great meals to try this.
If you try new recipes and they are a success you can add them to the list of foods, if not, you discard it and you only have to deal with it that week, and you don't waste buying a thousand different vegetables just to eat healthier and that end up getting damaged at the bottom of the fridge.
I hope these tips will help you make your meal planner easier. Check back here weekly for easy recipes that your family will love.