Weekly meal planning has been a life-saver for me. Let’s face it…coming up with what to cook and getting something on the table night after night is a chore. But for some reason, my family keeps expecting to eat every night!
Having a plan helps!
While I haven’t been able to come up with a way to avoid cooking, planning in advance makes the whole process a bit more smooth. (I actually do like to cook when I have time and the mood strikes. It’s the every. single. day. thing that gets to me sometimes!)
I work full-time outside the home, so when I get home in the evenings, the last thing I want to deal with is trying to decide what’s for dinner.
I am all about some quick and easy meals that don’t require a whole lot of thought, time or effort, like this Easy Week Night Chicken and Stuffing.
To make this possible, a little planning and preparation is essential. I mean, think about it. Who wants to come home with no clue what to fix for dinner, or even worse, with no groceries in the house to work with!
The good news is, you can plan and put together meals in just a few steps, and the time and effort you put into the meal planning will more than pay off when it’s time to grub!
The first step is to:
- Decide what you want to eat for the week. Drawing a blank? Ask your family for input. This cuts down on complaints when you fix something they didn’t really want, and also helps you with fresh ideas.
If you are like me, one of the main things to consider when planning your menu is how much you can spend for the week. Look at your food budget and determine how much you can comfortably purchase on this shopping trip and plan your menu accordingly.
Think about what you are in the mood to eat, taking into consideration the ideas submitted by the family, and write out your menu for the week.
I try to alternate the meats, so that we aren’t eating chicken, ground beef or whatever too many days back to back. I also like to incorporate at least a couple of crock pot meals and one-pan wonders just because these type meals are life-savers on hectic evenings.
Frozen vegetables are great too! We especially like the Birds-Eye Brand Normandy blend that you can either steam or put on a cookie sheet in the oven for a few minutes, or even saute with meat of your choice.
Next, you need to:
- Create a shopping list. Take inventory of what you already have on hand in your pantry and fridge so that you won’t buy items that you don’t really need. Go over each recipe and see what you already have and what you still need.
It’s a running joke at our house that we will never, ever run out of cream of mushroom soup or sweetened condensed milk because I am always buying more. I can justify the mushroom soup, since I use it in a lot of meals. The sweetened condensed milk, I really can’t explain.
Having a written menu really helps, because even if forget my list at home, writing it out helps commit it to memory. I am much more likely to remember what I need after writing out a list, whether I have it with me or not.
Another thing that I like to do is go back and organize my list according to where each item is found in the grocery store. This will keep you from having to back track all over the place!
Once all this is done:
- Choose a time to grocery shop (when you aren’t too tired or hungry) and buy your groceries.
Tired grocery shopping is miserable and hungry grocery shopping leaves you with a cart full of things you didn’t intend to buy!
(I also like to shop at times when the store isn’t so crowded.)
Work that list and mark through items as you go to help you keep up with what’s already in the cart and what you still need.
And that’s it! Bring your groceries home, put them away and get to cooking!
Sometimes I like to set my non-refrigerated ingredients out on the counter before I leave for work in the morning so that I can get started on fixing dinner as soon as I walk in.
On crock-pot meal days, I just try to remember to set aside a few minutes to get the meal going before I leave.
Some favorites for crock pot dinners are skinless boneless chicken strips cooked all day in cream of chicken soup (on medium heat), or a beef roast..whatever cut you prefer, cooked all day with cream of mushroom soup, onions, potatoes and carrots.
There are endless possibilities!
If you’re like me and have so much on your brain your memory lets you down, you might want to keep that menu on the fridge.
That way, you know what you’re cooking each day and you don’t have to answer that dreaded question: “What’s for dinner?” quite so often!
Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking will never be effortless, but with these three steps, the meal planning process is very simple.
Just decide what you want to eat for the week, create a shopping list, choose a time to grocery shop when you aren’t too tired or hungry, and get those groceries.
Then, when it comes time to cook dinner, you have a plan in place and you won’t have to stress about getting something on the table!