It took me a while to get on board with meal planning. I'm not sure why. As someone who isn't much of a cook and finds it more of a chore, you would think that learning a way to have dinner ready without stress and scurrying around would be welcomed. Now... I get it!
I make a very simple meal plan for the week and that is what I base my weekly grocery shopping trip from. My main focus for my weekly plan is dinner. Breakfast and lunch are pretty routine as long as I have the usual items on hand (cereal, milk, etc.).
Here are a few thoughts about how to determine what's for dinner this week!
Plan From Your Cupboards
Check out your kitchen and see what foods you have on hand to cook with. If you have plenty of something you might want to plan a meal around it.
Plan From The Grocery Store Sale Flyers
Be sure to go through the grocery store flyer you get each week to see what items are on sale that can go with what you already have on hand at home. Or find items on sale in which to build some meals around.
Plan From Your Favorites
It's hard for me to come up with meals off the top of my head. To make things easier, I keep a list of our favorite meals and side dishes. As I'm planning out my meals for the next week, I go through that list to get ideas. If I try a new recipe that goes over well, I add it to my recipe book and this list.
Write Down Your Plan
Write your meal plan down so you can refer to it. I write mine down on the bottom of my grocery shopping list. That way it goes with me to the grocery store in case I need to refer to it. Then I keep the bottom portion of my grocery list when I get home and am able to refer to it during the week to know what's on the menu.
What Do You Need To Buy?
Once you've come up with a meal plan, check for all the ingredients. Refer to your recipes if you need to in order to verify that you have all ingredients for your meals on hand. Write anything you need down on your weekly grocery shopping list.
Even though I make a plan, it's not engraved in stone. Sometimes schedules change and something intended for Monday may end up being eaten on Tuesday. We may have more leftovers than intended and get an extra leftover day. Be flexible and go with it. It's still better to be prepared and have more ideas than to be wondering what's for dinner as everyone is coming to the table to eat.
Just Do It!
As I said, it took me a while to get this routine going, but now it's really working for me. I can't imagine going back to "wingin' it". Start small, but do it. You will see how this eventually becomes second nature and helps make daily dinners go so much smoother.
Benefits of Menu Planning
With a menu plan, you can go to the grocery store once a week and get everything you need for that week. No daily trips to the store trying to figure out what's for dinner. No spending extra time at restaurants, driving, parking, waiting for service, etc.
With a meal plan, you make more affordable meals at home. No eating out regularly paying high prices for food you could make at home for far less.
With a menu plan, you can make better meals for your family. If you plan ahead and have the ingredients in the house, you're more likely to make healthy meals instead of ordering out.
I don't know about you, but I get pretty stressed out when I know dinner time is fast approaching and I don't have a meal started. Planning ahead and having the ingredients on hand will relieve that stress. You will know what you're cooking, that you have all your ingredients, and how much time you're going to need to prepare that night's meal.