15 Tips for Successful Weekly Meal Planning
TIP #1 – Create a Delicious Dish List
Coming up with meals ideas week after week can be the hardest part of meal planning. It’s frustrating and can feel like a HUGE job especially when you are starting from scratch. The Solution – Create a list of family approved recipes that have become staples in your home. Then when its’ time to figure out what to make you always have a list of ideas to pull from. I suggest handing this list on the fridge or on a family planning board so you can add to it whenever you get an idea, have a craving for something or are reminded of a family favorite while dining out. You could go as far as to break the list into breakfast, snacks, lunch or dinner ideas. Personally I do all my meal planning from my computer so I have our family favorite list saved to my computer for quick reference.
TIP #2 – Ask your family members what they’d like to eat this week.
This might sound obvious, but between and the other to do’s it’s easy to forget to ask our family what they would like to eat when. Doing so gets them involved, limits the number of meal ideas you have come-up with and you get the satisfaction of cooking a favorite meal for someone you love.
TIP #3 – Spend time each week looking for recipes.
This is something I have personal neglected to do most recently and as part of Operation Organization Month here at LYL, I have scheduled time each week to perfect a new recipe and of course share it with you 🙂
Take some time each week to browse blogs and websites for recipes that look delicious. Dig out old cookbooks and find new favorite’s. I also find Pinterest a great place to get inspired.
TIP #4 – Create a Weekly Meal Plan
Now that you are getting inspired to whip up some favorite dishes, now it’s time to map out what your week of meals will look like.
I recommend setting aside 30-60min each week to design your meal plan. You’ll get more efficient the longer you stick with it. I can usually design a 7-Day meal plan in 15min or less.
The key point to remember here is to make it a consistent time each week. Saturday morning while you enjoy a cup of coffee, Thursday evening after the kiddies go to bed – whenever works for you. My usual practice is Friday afternoon at Starbucks.
It doesn’t matter what type of calendar you use. Some options to consider are a Google Calendar, a hardcopy weekly planner, notes to yourself in the corner of your laptop or a Microsoft Excel document (which is what I use). The important thing is that you write it down and save it somewhere. I have meal plans saved on my computer since 2008.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Your planner of choice (notebook, computer or weekly planner)
- Recipes or cookbooks you’ll need
- Grocery list, if you have already started one
- A pen
TIP #5 – Make sure your plan includes Monday through Sunday.
Creating a plan that also includes the weekends is very important. Too often I hear clients blowing their diets over the weekends because of poor planning.
TIP #6 – Take note of any things in the upcoming week that might affect your day.
If you have a busy day of errand running, that’s not the day to plan an elaborate meal. You have a Date Night on Friday; no need to cook. Your son has soccer practice on Monday; pick a meal from your quick and easy list. Take note of any commitments that will impact how long you have to prepare, serve, or eat the meal.
TIP #7 – Save one meal a week to try a new recipe.
Make sure you have already decided on that meal, have the recipe printed in advance and that you have all ingredients on hand. Committing to this every week will help to add more recipes to your staple list; thus adding more variety to your weekly menus.
TIP #8 – Have your grocery list next to your while you are planning.
As you select each meal in your weekly plan, review each recipe and write down what you need to get from the store. If you’re unsure about how much of a spice you have, or whether or not you have frozen chicken breasts in the freezer, now’s the time to check. There’s nothing more frustrating than starting to cook and finding out you really don’t have an ingredient after all.
TIP # 9 – Plan a Left Over Day
If you tend to have a lot of leftovers during the week, plan one day as LO (leftover) day. In my house that means I take all the leftover containers out of the refrigerator and line them up on the counter and the family gets to pick what they want. It’s a buffet on the cheap that cleans out the refrigerator and reduces the amount of food you waste. And as a bonus, it’s a no-cook night for you!
TIP # 10 – Check the weather.
Again, you may say, duh, but seriously. If you live in Newfoundland you know the weather can change on a dime. Look at the weather forecast, and try to predict if you’re going to be in the mood for a warm, comforting stew or a light grilled fish salad.
This was a tip I learned just last week when I planned to make the Low Carb Roast Beef Hash from my cookbook on what tuned out to be one of the hottest days thus far. The family was not impressed…lol
TIP # 11 – Look for twofer opportunities.
What’s a twofer? It’s getting two meals from the effort of one. You can do that by using the leftovers from one meal in the next meal (Taco Lettuce Wraps today is Texas Breakfast Skillet tomorrow). Or doubling the recipe and freezing half for another dinner on a day when you absolutely don’t have time to cook.
TIP # 12 – Batch Cooking and Freezing.
Batch cooking and freezing is a great way to save time in the kitchen and simplify your weekly meal planning. Every week I select two main recipes and two snack recipes to prepare, I double the batch and freeze the leftovers. By doing this EVERY week builds up an inventory of quick, ready to go snacks and meals that we can reheat & eat anytime.
TIP # 13 – Go with theme nights (Mexican, Slow-Cooker, Pasta night).
This was something my mother did when I was young and I loved it. Create a theme for one or two days of the week. For example Monday is pasta, Tuesday is fish, Wednesday is tacos, and Friday is Pizza. I think is a great way to get the kids involved and it narrows down your focus making it much quicker and easier to plan.
TIP # 14 – Check what’s on sale.
I love to organize my meal plans based on what’s on sale. I review the flyers every week and build my meal plan around the sales. I also stock-up when certain items go on sale, like chicken or ground beef.
If you don’t get flyers at your home you can always look on-line. Make sure to also take note of any coupons being offered. Last week I saved $8.50 on diapers and wipes.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive if you take the time to read the flyers and plan accordingly. Over the past two weeks I have reduced our grocery bill by $125 each week, just my turning my focus to building our meals plans around sale items. I’m also TOTALLY obsessed with the NEW PC PLUS Points Program. If you shop at Dominion and don’t have one of these cards you are SO missing out. I’ve been redeeming anywhere from $40-$60 worth of points each month.
TIP # 15 – Build Your Meal Plan from Items you already have.
Looking through you cupboard you find a can of kidney beans, a can of stewed tomatoes, and a couple of bell peppers in your fridge so you decided to make chili. Or maybe you bought a few extra packages of chicken last week because they were on sale, so you find a couple of new chicken recipes to try this week.
These tips and tricks will seem like it’s adding more work to your meal planning, but trust me…in the end, you’ll not only save TIME and MONEY but you’ll also be making your family healthier, and your life less stressful.
If you have a favorite meal planning tip I’d love to hear from you. Plesae take the time to share it in the comment box below.
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Happy Meal Planning!!