Meal planning tips
Meal planning can be a lot of work, but if done correctly, it’s always worth it in the end. I hated the nights when I got home late from work with nothing planned for dinner. I would be forced to do take-out or canned soup. That kind of lifestyle can leave your palette unsatisfied, not to mention it can be unhealthy and costly.
Tips for successful meal planning
1. Start collecting a handful of “go-to” recipes. These shouldn’t be complicated recipes with tons of ingredients. Instead, bank on easy, familiar ones that aren’t hard to put together. I started collecting recipes the summer before my senior year of college. I was terrified to be living off campus and not being able to rely on the cafe or Mom’s cooking. I knew I needed the SIMPLEST of simple recipes, so I started looking online for easy meals. Over the years, this homemade cookbook has grown to include ideas from magazines, family recipes, and anything else I thought sounded good! My younger sister, now in college, has started using it too!
2. Organize your recipes by main ingredient (chicken, beef, etc.) or by cuisine (Mexican, Italian). Pinterest is a GREAT way to stay organized and easily allows you to find your recipes again, re-pin new ones, and delete ones that didn’t work out.
3. Use the weekly flyers to help you plan your meals. See what’s on sale and begin to generate ideas from there. You’ll be surprised how much $$$ you can save when you plan your meals based on what foods are on sale.
4. Buy foods that are in season. Not only will they be more affordable, but they will also taste fresher.
5. Write down your meal plan. Find a system that works best for you. I like to start writing down foods that are on sale, foods I want to buy, and items I need to re-stock. Then I’ll write down the days of the week, each with a dinner idea. It sounds time consuming, but it’s really not. It’s become part of my Sunday morning routine, after breakfast, while I sip my coffee.
6. Have a well-stocked pantry. Whenever black beans, corn, canned tomatoes, and pasta are on sale (a good sale is 10/$10, but you don’t have to buy 10) I buy a few, even if I don’t plan to use them that week for meals. I know I WILL use them. It helps to have a stocked pantry for those crazy nights when you don’t have time to prepare a meal, you can quickly make a black bean quesadilla, pasta, black bean salad, etc. Fast, easy recipes are the key to keeping your sanity!
Other foods I always like to have in stock are:
Chicken stock- I use Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base. I love it because, unlike a box or can of chicken stock where you have to use it up quickly after opening, you store this in your fridge and just add 1 tablespoon to hot water to make 8 oz of chicken stock. Many recipes call for chicken stock – soups, chicken, risottos; remember, I love adding it to white rice for a little more flavor!
Pizza dough-buy when on sale and store in freezer
These are my tips and what works for me! Please share your own tips!