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Meal planning is not my favorite part of the week. I’m not exactly sure why but maybe it’s because I don’t like making the decisions on our family’s meals. Sometimes I opt for our meals to be sent from Hello Fresh. When that isn’t in our budget (very rare) or we don’t like the choices (even rarer) I am left with having to meal plan.
It is challenging enough to make nutritious food for every meal but then ad a super busy schedule to the mix, and it seems nearly impossible. With these simple, time-saving tips, you can meal plan like a pro.
1. Buy Meat in Bulk and Marinate Before Hand
This has to be one of the best things I started doing. I buy our meat in bulk, especially when it is on sale. We use a vacuum sealer to seal the meat for the freezer. When it is time to start planning, I check the freezer for the kinds of meat we have on hand. The helps me know which recipes to look for first. Portion out the meat and then choose the amount you want to marinate. Marinating can take a bit of time. I can’t tell you how many times I went to make a recipe last minute only to find out that the meat needed to be marinated first. Flank steak, pork chops, lamb chops, ribs, and chicken breast are all meats that are perfect for marinating ahead of time.
2. Use a Meal Planning Template
The meal planning template can be as detailed or as simple as you wish. When I am in a hurry, I like to use a pretty simple planner. It has the days of the week where I write out our dinners and section is reserved for the shopping list. Using a meal planner will help keep you on track while shopping and has the added benefit of being good on your wallet. I find when I have a list I don’t overbuy at the grocery store. (There is a free linked below just for you.)
3. Find Consistency
I try to theme the days of the week. For example, Tuesday is Taco Tuesday so we will have some type of taco dish. I know that on Sundays we eat out after church and that Sunday nights we have whatever is left in our fridge. We have burgers three times a month and something grilled at least once a week. If you plan most of the month out the same each week, it makes planning a breeze and helps you buy the meat in bulk. Once most of the month is scheduled you can throw in a new recipe here or there to spice things up.
4. Prep Components of Your Meals
Meal prepping is my least favorite activity but the one that is necessary to keep us from eating out all the time. Meal prepping also makes it a lot easier when cooking time comes each day. Families are so busy these days that it is nice to be able to pull a dish out of the freezer and throw it into the oven or slow cooker while you check off a dozen other to-dos at the same time. Choosing similar ingredients can help with meal prepping, cut down on cost, and help eliminate waste.
5. Involve Your Kids
If you are stuck on ideas, don’t be afraid to ask your kids for help! They might have some suggestions for their own lunches that are not only healthy but help you put a varied list together for the following weeks’ meals. Check out these kid-friendly recipes for more inspiration.
Grab your free simple meal planner here.