by Amanda Goetz
I am an avid meal planner.
If I didn’t plan out our weekly meals, I would never have the complete ingredients for anything and every night at 5pm, I would be standing in the kitchen like a deer caught in the headlights wondering what to make.

I thought I’d share with you all some tricks and tips I’ve come up with on meal planning and how it can help you become more organized and less stressed out about what to for dinner every night!

The Benefits

Having your week’s meals planned out makes shopping a lot easier, and cheaper. If you have a list you’re less tempted to buy stuff you don’t need (Oreos will be the death of me!). It also keeps you from forgetting items and buying duplicates of things you might already have in your pantry. I display our meal plan on the fridge, which also cuts out the usual “what’s for dinner?” question I would otherwise hear 50 times in a week. If you have small children, you might want to display a version with pictures so that they can see what’s going to be on their plates later. A quick google search for Food Icons should give you lots to work with.

what's for dinner, meal plan, meal planning

Pick a shopping day

I plan my week on Friday mornings cause that’s the day the weekly sales start at my grocery store. I try to get 90% of the items I’ll need for the week, but I usually have to make one pit stop at the store later in the week to get items we’ve run out of (fruits that spoil quickly I buy in smaller quantities twice a week). I’ll also pick up items I want to be as fresh as possible when we eat it, like kaisers for our Wednesday night burgers.

 
Get organized

First, I made a list of all the meals we enjoy, including breakfast foods (more on that to come), that I refer to when making my weekly meal plan. I have them organized by categories like Breakfast, Poultry, Beef, Pasta, Pork, Fish and Miscellaneous.

I also roughly assigned food categories to the days of the week, like every Tuesday I plan a pasta dish, and every Friday is “fun meal” (pizza, tacos, etc…) night. Doing this helps me make sure we don’t have too much overlap from the different categories. It also helps me ensure that we make a rotation through all our favourites and we’re not eating the same 10 dishes over and over.

The next thing I do is take a quick inventory of the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what I have on hand that I can use for that week’s meals.

Plan your week
A lot of people just plan their dinners, and if that’s all that you need help with, then by all means do that. I plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? I can’t tell you how many times we’ve woken up on the weekend with a hankering for pancakes, or bacon and eggs only to discover we’re out of maple syrup or bread. Planning out breakfast also helps to keep my kids from having toast with Nutella seven days a week (which they would have NO problem with, but I do!).
When I wake up I’m already in gear with my plan and get right to work, even if it’s just toast and cereal there’s no standing around trying to guess what they want. I just make it and they eat it and everyone is happy… usually.
I plan lunches for the same reason. Being prepared cuts down on the repetition. My husband takes leftovers in his lunch so I like to make sure I make a dish or two a week that reheats well and is easy for him to eat at work.

 

Do your shopping, but be flexible

This week’s meal plan included salmon steaks on Monday night. However, when I got to the store they were out of fresh salmon. BUT, they always have canned so I did a quick switch in my head from Salmon Steaks to Salmon Cakes. Being flexible like that will help you with your shopping.

I also sometimes find myself switching nights if we’re busy and need a less complicated dish, someone is against that night’s meal selection, or even on account of weather (who wants to BBQ in the pouring rain?).

When I shop I keep an eye out for deals on items that are not needed for the current week’s meal plan and will pick them up to use the following week.

If you’re a working parent
Back in the days when I had a leave-my-house job, I used to prep some meals on the weekend. Things that could keep in the fridge for a few days like casseroles and lasagnas. I’d also marinate meats in ziploc bags and wash and prep veggies. Doing this on the weekend saves time mid-week and makes it less likely you’ll abandon your meal plan for fast food if you had a crazy day.
Here is this week’s meal plan at our house.  As you can see, we keep it simple. We have a lot of little palates in our house, simple is best for now!
meal plan, meal planning, what's for dinner
 
 
Saturday:  Homemade Pizza
 
Sunday:   Pancakes  and Juicy Roast Chicken 
 
Monday:   Hashbrown Quiche (make on Sunday for a quick breakfast on Monday!)  and Salmon Cakes with Herb Cream Sauce
 
Tuesday:  Baked Gnocchi
 
Wednesday:  Soup-er Easy Chicken à la King (use leftover chicken from Sunday!)
 
Thursday:  Quesadillas
 
Download the meal plan here
 
Happy meal planning and happy cooking!

caffeinated mom, amanda goetz, best mom on the block blogAmanda Goetz is a WAHM to 3 kids under the age of 5. Her love of cooking was fostered when she was a preschooler helping her grandma in the kitchen. After a year long stint as a sous chef, she left the industry to continue cooking as a hobby before the stress and politics of a professional kitchen killed her love of cooking. Now she creates delicious dinners and delectable desserts for her family and friends and blogs about it at The Best Mom on the Block.

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of amotherworld.com, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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