It has been a long day at school and by the time you walk in the house at 5pm your stomach is growling. Your family will be home soon and wanting dinner, so you toss off your coat and stare blindly at the kitchen cupboards. The daily “What can I make for dinner?” question hangs in the air. Instead of worrying about what is for dinner, take control and make a meal plan.
Meal Planning Basics
What’s a Meal Plan?
A meal plan is a listing or calendar view of what you will be having for dinner each and every night for the week or the month. It not only takes the work out of figuring what is for dinner, but it makes grocery shopping and food budgeting much easier. While there are many different meal plans available online, it is important to come up with a plan that works well for your family.
How Do You Make a Meal Plan?
First, it is important to figure out how far in advance you want to plan your meals and which meals you want to plan. If you are just starting off, try planning dinner for one week to get your feet wet. Start by thinking about all of the meals your family enjoys and jot them down. Next, think about the week ahead. How much time will you have each night to prepare dinner? Plan slow cooker meals for busy nights and more involved meals for the weekend or nights when you have more time. You might want to print out a simple meal planner sheet like this one to jot your meals in. If you need menu inspirations, check out these recipes or this month of meals to get you started.
There are also apps like Food Planner for Android phones and Meal Planning by Food on the Table that help you integrate grocery lists with weekly menus.
Benefits of Meal Planning
The biggest benefit to you when you make a meal plan (and stick with it!) is the amount of time and frustration you will save. When you know what is for dinner each night, it makes it easier to plan ahead and gives you peace of mind throughout the day – especially on the way home from school! Another big benefit to meal planning is the amount of money that you can save. If you plan ahead for the month, you will know exactly what groceries to buy and when. Remember that milk, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables will need to be purchased weekly so that they are not rotten when you need them at the end of the month. Plan ahead, be disciplined to stick with only the things you need, and watch your spending on groceries shrink.
Meal planning for the month will take about an hour when you are first getting started, but after you get used to the routine and have a core group of meals that your family enjoys, you can plan even quicker than that. If planning for a month is not practical for your family, plan for the school week. Start with just dinner and then add on meals as you become more comfortable with the process. You can do it!
We Want to Know!
Do you plan your meals ahead of time? What are some of your best tips and tricks? Share them with us below!