Meal Planning: Making Life a Little Simpler

You do it every day, but yet the question still remains… What do I make for dinner?

This is often the scene at my house: it is 4:30 (or 5:00, possibly even 6:00 some days) and I am asking myself the same question I have asked myself every day for the past month. “What do I make for dinner? Then I take a quick inventory of what I have on hand and whip up something that hopefully resembles an edible meal. Let me guess, is this a common occurrence at your house too?

How do you get out of this rut? Go out to eat? Have cereal for dinner? (you know the kids will be ok with this option.) For me, the answer is Meal Planning.

I have a love/hate relationship with meal planning. I am great about it for a while, and then somehow lose my groove and forget to do it. But lets face it, as much as I don’t want to do it, it is a huge help to making my week go smoother.

What is there to gain from planning your meals?

1.Less stress because you know what you are going to be making.

2. Quicker trips to the grocery store because you can now make and stick to a list.

3. Money SAVED!

When I take the time to plan out meals before I go shopping I can take stock of what I have on hand and incorporate those items into my menu for the week. If I have fruit or veggies that need eaten, I come up with meals that will use those before they get tossed to the chickens.

So how do you get started?

For me, I take a quick look through my fridge and freezer to see what is already in there. I might write down an idea or two of how they can be used.

Next, take stock of what staples you have on hand. Do you have pasta? Potatoes? Rice? See if there are any meals you can make out of just what is in the fridge and your pantry staples. I usually try to figure out 2 to 3 meals that can be made without needing any other ingredients than what I already have on hand.

Next take a look at the weekly flyers so see what meat or produce might be on sale. Is there something there that you can work with? Is asparagus on sale at a price I am comfortable paying? If I find something in the sales flyers it often sparks an idea for something to make.

Next write down all the meals you have now planned. Try to aim for around 7 meals planned. Between these meals and any left over ingredients you can probably make a week to 10 days worth of meals.

Mentally go through all of the ingredients needed to make these dishes. Put any ingredient that you are running low on, or do not have, on your shopping list.

Shopping time! It’s so much easier for me to be in and out of the store if I have and stick to my list. I don’t add anything to the cart that is not written down, and I don’t have to try and remember what we might be in need of.

Better yet, I like to use a shopping service such as Walmart Pick-up or Clicklist from Smith’s or Kroger. When I use a virtual shopping cart I do a much better job of keeping extras out of the cart. I like this because I can do it in my down time at home and then just pick up my groceries when I am already out running other errands.

Ok, so how does this save money? It helps me to spend only what I need to in order to feed my family. If I choose to spend more than what is necessary that is fine, but if I need to keep to a budget, planning out my meals allows me to come up with less expensive options and use what is already in the house (food that has already been paid for).

My week this week is looking tasty with a dinner menu of:

Rabbit Tacos and fresh pineapple

Bacon and Cabbage Hash

Grilled chicken and Berry Salad

Stuffed Spinach Portabella Mushrooms with Garlic Bread

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza

Steak, Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

Rabbit Gumbo

I only meal plan for dinner. Lunch is usually a combination of left overs and sandwiches. Breakfast is usually simple during the week with something extra tasty on the weekends that I might have planned in advance too.

What about you? How do you deal with the age old question “What’s for dinner?” Leave us your thoughts in a comment below!

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