Monday, February 3, 2014

Did you know....Meal planning is easy?

One of the things I have come to realize is that when I don't have a set meal plan I'm not prepared. It gets to 4pm and I am scrambling to figure out dinner without meat thawed or any sense of direction. BUT if I set up a meal plan I already know what I'm making and can not be stressed out come dinner time. Now that doesn't mean that I strictly stick to that plan no matter what, I often change things due to schedules or if we forgot something at the store etc. 

Here are a few tips for getting started with meal planning.

1. Decide HOW You want to Meal Plan
For the longest time I would just use a piece of notebook paper and a pen! I would get it out, divide it into each day of the week (we usually shop weekly) and then for each meal of the day. I would then look online, Pinterest, my cookbooks at home and get ideas from my family for meals they would like. I'd write them into my menu and then use those to go through and make my shopping list for the week. 

I've just checked out another method though and it's called Plan to Eat. You've probably seen it around other places before but like me, you've never really checked it out. Or maybe you have and love it! 

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

I've also heard of people using things like spreadsheets or other online recipe databases. Whatever you choose, you'll be glad you started planning your meals!I've also used a printable menu planner from here

A friend has a great idea too. She uses her refrigerator and magnets with meal names to plan her menu! 

2. Gather your recipes
Maybe you save them on Pinterest, Plan to Eat or just on your shelf of cookbooks. Whatever you decide it's always fun to try new things so be sure to add some new ones to your tried and true meals every now and then! 
If you use Plan to Eat, you can upload your recipes and they'll fill in the info for you and store it for you. My friend's example has magnets with meal names on one side and the resource on the back. 
3. Get Planning! 
If you're using a pen and paper simply fill in your meals as you look through your collection of recipes. If you're using Plan to Eat you can go to their planning calendar and simply drag and drop your meals into the day and meal you want to use it. In my friend's planner she would just take the meals and place them on her calendar. I like to ask my husband and kids for suggestions too so that I know I'm making things they will enjoy.I also try to add new recipes to our list and find new favorites.  

Photo by Rachel Miller

4. Make your Shopping List
This I sometimes do as I'm planning the menu or I will do it afterward. Go through each day's meals and write down anything you don't have on hand that you will need. With the magnets, the resource is listed on the back so you can use that to go through and find your needed items
Plan to Eat will make your list for you so all you have to do is print it out and take it with you.

5. Go Shopping and Get Cooking! 
Take your list to the store and get the items you need. In order to keep on track with my menu I like to print it and hang it on the refrigerator for easy access and viewing throughout the day.  

Once you get started it's quite easy and will make your day much less stressful! Get your kiddos involved in the selection of recipes and also in the shopping. Younger kids can help find items and put them into the cart. Older ones can keep track of the list, reading items and marking them off. Then go home and get them cooking with you! More often than not if they are helping prepare the meals they are more willing to eat tehm! 

What do you use to plan your family meals? 

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