Meal planning is one of the key routines to implement in order to make your home-life run smoothly. Not only does it save you money and time, it also reduces stress and enables you to make healthier choices. With it, you can create accurate grocery lists which mean you reduce waste and don’t find yourself running to the supermarket for that one essential ingredient you need. You’ll also use your schedule when factoring in what to cook when. This means you’ll never realize too late that tonight’s meal required a four-hour marinating time, so you’re going to have to grab take-out instead. And the best part is that once you’ve done it for the first time, it takes less than 15 minutes a week.
Working out a weekly meal plan.
What are the family favorites?
Start off with what you are already doing well. Think back to what you’ve made over the last couple of weeks. Which ones had people coming back for more? Now write down these meals, and any others you can think of that have been hits in the past.
Divide them into seasons. Some meals can be made all year around. Others, due to availability or other factors, are suited for certain times of the year.
As part of your initial prep work here, write down the ingredients required for these meals.
The family favorites form the basis of your meal plan, and will probably make up for three nights out of the seven.
What’s your go-to for when things get hectic?
Next to add is at least one slow cooker meal. Slow cookers are invaluable when you have a busy afternoon / early evening. Just make sure you turn it on in the morning!
Add a super-quick meal. This is the thing you know you can cook in ten to fifteen minutes, and is easy as well. Pinterest has a bunch of these, or try the Busy Budgeter’s 15 minute recipes.
These go-tos will be what you turn to when you normally would have hit the drive-through.
Now we have five.
What do you want to try?
Create a “to try” list. I have a clearfile in which I store recipes, and in the last section are those I would like to have a go at. These have been sourced from the supermarket with their Feed four for $15, from friends, from magazines, and of course, from Pinterest. I have about 20 recipes to try at any one time, with my mission being to try a new meal every week. I make this on a Saturday or Sunday when I have time, as for some reason a new recipe always takes me twice as long to make as it says. If the meal passes the test (often I will have to do twice just to be sure) it becomes a family favorite.
What about traditions?
We love Fridays in our house, and we always celebrate them with nachos and a tv show or ten. This ritual creates a sense of excitement as it marks the start of the weekend, and is something my kids still remember now they have left home. What traditions could you start with your family?
Now that’s the week sorted.
How about a meatless meal or two?
Something else to consider is eating no-meat meals even just once or twice a week has significant benefits for your wallet, your health and the planet. If you don’t cook any vegetarian meals, find some and add them to your “try” list.
Schedule it out.
Now that you have the meals worked out, there’s a couple more steps to do.
Firstly, write next to each meal how long it will take to cook.
Secondly, look at your calendar for the next week. Allocate your tradition night and your “to try” night. Then, thinking about what time you will get home, and how much energy you’ll have, allocate each meal to a day. I put my emergency meal (that quick and easy 15 minute wonder) on Sunday, but can pull it to any night that I need it. In addition, my husband loves leftovers for lunches, so I try space meals which generate leftovers with ones those that don’t, so he can have variety. You also want to mix things up, like we often alternate meatless, chicken and red meat.
Top tip: write your meals on post-it notes, so you can stick them in your planner, and move them around if need be.
The next thing is to take the ingredients required and add them to your shopping list. Meal plan on the same day as you write your list, so you know you have exactly what you need.
So that wasn’t too hard was it? Did you know that eating together as a family leads to better family relationships, less stress and greater happiness? Now you know how, by spending just 15 minutes a week planning, you too can have a tasty mix of family favorites, new ideas and fun traditions that can help you and your family reap these benefits of family dinners.
Have you tried meal planning? Any other top-tips to share?
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