If you’re tempted to roll through the nearest drive-thru after a long day or the thought of grocery shopping and preparing a meal in the next couple of hours exhausts you, keep reading. The secret to making even the busiest nights healthy and calm is just some simple meal planning!
Planning your meals a week (or more) in advance may seem like a long, daunting task, but figuring out a dinner schedule and getting organized will actually save you time and energy. You won’t be rushing to the store for meat, veggies or frozen pizza and you’ll be mentally prepared for the evening’s tasks. You may even have dinner prepped ahead! Follow these tips to become a master meal planner or simply adopt the tasks that work for you.
1. Gather your recipes and store them. If you enjoy flipping through cookbooks or searching for Pinterest’s healthy food inspiration, set aside some time to go through and create a delicious dinner schedule. But the most important part of this tip? Store the recipes once you find them! Keep a detailed Pinterest board, create an electronic note or print the recipes. Just make sure you can easily locate them when you need them.
2. Create a detailed grocery list. Don’t wander around the store, picturing the recipes in your head. Jot down every ingredient you’ll need for the week, then take a look through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry before heading off the the store. Remove the items you already have so you aren’t wasting money or time picking up unnecessary items!
3. Prep what you can. Once you get home from the grocery, don’t put away the items and call it a day. While you’ve got the energy and momentum, wash and cut your vegetables, prep and freeze your meat or simply group your ingredients so each dinner’s preparation is made simpler.
4. Display the menu! If you’ve got picky or headstrong family members, give them time to mentally prepare for each night’s meals by creatively displaying the menu in your kitchen. Decoratively write it on a chalkboard, have a space for the recipe cards, or just stick a handwritten list on the fridge. That will make it easier for you to stick to the schedule you’ve set, too, as the guessing is taken out of dinner and a plan is in writing!
5. Keep a meal journal. With any new practice comes a time for learning, and the art of meal planning is no exception. Keeping an electronic or handwritten journal of your family’s meals is a smart way of remembering what your family liked or disliked, as well as remembering things you’d do differently next time. And if the recipe yields enough for lunch the next day, make note of it!
6. Keep your schedule in mind. Instead of settling for something unhealthy the night of, skim over the family’s schedule for the week and plan your healthy, homemade meals accordingly. If you’ve got a dance class or ballgame to attend with your kids, make that night’s menu simpler than an unoccupied evening.