6 Tips to Meal Planning Success

It’s 5:00 p.m.  As you head into the kitchen, you glance in the refrigerator.  It’s full and yet it feels as though there is nothing to eat.  What exactly is all this food you purchased at the grocery store with good intentions?  Where is the meal for soccer night when you’re short on time and your brain is full of other pressing issues, the least of which being what’s for dinner?

It may sound unglamorous, yet the planning of a weekly menu can help you save money as well as ensure your family is getting nutritious, healthy meals on a regular basis.

Here are a few tips on meal planning success:

  1. Check to see what you have on hand.  Take inventory of any leftover food items that you could use in a meal in the coming week.  This will lower your grocery budget and reduce waste.
  1. Build meals around protein and seasonal produce.  Think about what produce is in season.  For us this means what will be available from our garden, but also what’s available at the farmers market and what deals we will be able to find at the store.
  1. Incorporate ingredients into multiple meals.  If I’m going to roast a full chicken, I’ll plan on making chicken stock for soup or risotto later in the week with the carcass.  If I’m using spinach in one meal, I’ll look for a different usage in another: a spinach salad and a frittata later in the week.
  1. Plan a “use it all up” meal.  We like to have quesadillas, wraps or pizza at the end of the week to use up leftover vegetables and proteins.  That quarter of a red pepper and handful of mushrooms work great on a pizza.
  1. Be flexible.  Try to plan meals that you can easily swap days with.  If one day you get behind, perhaps you have a meal planned that will take less time.  A great way to do this is by working ahead.  See #6.
  1. Do more than you need to.  If I am preparing a meal and have time, I often start prep work for meals later in the week to save time.  I’ll chop food or have the kids snap the tops off the beans if I plan on using them in the next day or two.  This is one less thing I need to do and it makes the cooking process easier as the week wears on.

Hopefully these have given you a few starting points on planning your menu and reducing the mealtime stress at your house.  With a bit of preparation and forethought, meals can come together in minutes.

[photo by Katie Did]


Editor’s note: This post was written by Shaina Olmanson, author of the Food for My Family blog.

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Posted on July 20, 2011, in Family, Lists, Mom Tips, Planning. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Francine Allaire

    I could use all the help I can get when it comes to cooking and preparing meals. Thank you Shaina for sharing easy tips and strategies that will make dinner time less stressful and more organized. You’re my new hero-:) I look forward to your posts.

  2. Wonderful ideas! My husband is the menu planner and since he’d been living in another state for a year we got out of the habit. My daughter wasn’t really picky and didn’t eat all that much so it was easy. Now, to get back in the routine. Thanks for reminding me how easy it really can be!

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