Ever notice how much better things go if you just plan a little? No matter what area of life, we can all benefit by planning, and menu planning is no different. Life is busy and the last thing most of us want to do after a long day is to think about making dinner. So why take time to map out your weekly meals?
Save time. No need to search for recipes and no more last-minute trips to the supermarket since you’ve got all ingredients on hand, knowing exactly what to make.
Save money. A menu plan will cut down on impulse shopping or ordering takeout as dinner time approaches. It also cuts down on food waste, since you will only purchase food for each specific recipe.
Save calories. You won’t be eating fast food or takeout, since you’re ready with your plan of more nutritious meals.
Creating Menu Choices
Engage your entire family and create a basic list of 20-50 recipes. This list could be a mix of:
Recipes made in large batches to freeze
Quick-fix recipes for busy nights
Simple recipes that don’t require special ingredients to help avoid food waste
Recipes that allow for using leftovers for another meal, such as roasted chicken
Recipes using seasonal vegetables to help reduce food cost
Now that you decided on your recipes, it’s time to organize them into one space. Consider using one of the digital apps available for your mobile device, tablet, or computer. Two Apps to try are Paprikaapp.com and Plantoeat.com.
Both apps categorize recipes, captures notes, generate shopping lists, and organize weekly meal plans. You can seamlessly sync recipes, grocery lists, and meal plans across all your devices, to take your recipes everywhere.
Not a digital person? No problem, some people love to print out their recipes for easy viewing while cooking. Create your own recipe binder by placing the recipes into protective sleeves, divided into categories.
Creating your weekly menu
Each week schedule time to plan your menu. The weekend works well for most families since they generally have more time for grocery shopping and meal prep. Your first step is to review your family’s calendar and then choose meals from your recipe list for each night of the week depending on your schedule. Opt for easy to make recipes or slow-cooker meals for busy nights. Some people love to have a theme night - like Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday, which makes it fun, easy, and predictable. Be creative and ask other family members for their suggestions.
Creating your grocery list
Compare each week’s recipe ingredients’ list to your inventory (pantry, freezer, and refrigerator). Next, create a shopping list. Here is where some digital apps can be helpful. Keep a back stock of staples on hand and replenish when stock runs low, remembering to rotate older food items to the front of the pantry and refrigerator. Some people keep an electronic master grocery list, adding additional items as needed. Do what works best for you.
Prepping your food
Once your groceries are on hand, it’s time for prep work. This will help save time during the week. Believe me, a little time spent on this will help you save time and stress on those busy weeknights. Chop and clean all fresh ingredients and store them in containers in your fridge. Set up electronic reminders to take out frozen items, such as meats, the night before you need them.
Browse the Internet for food prep ideas and recipes. I have followed Lisa from Downshiftology for a while and like some of her ideas. Check out one of her food prep videos here - but keep browsing until you find the right person for your taste and lifestyle. Just like any other new habit, it may take a little time for your planning to become a routine. You’ll soon notice how easy it becomes to get a healthy meal on the table, that the entire family enjoys!