By Vicki Little
When my kids were younger, I didn’t understand what the hype about meal planning was all about. I just grabbed whatever was convenient from the fridge or freezer, and we were good to go. But now that the kids are in school and busy with activities, I understand the importance of monthly menu planning. I don’t have to juggle how I’m going to prepare a meal for our family before an evening activity or at the end of a long day. Meal planning has also saved me a lot of money (and calories) because we eat out less. If you have been thinking about monthly meal planning, all it takes is 6 easy steps, and dinners become so much easier!
- Make a list of what your family enjoys eating. Ideally you will have 28-31 dinners, but if you are like my family and you have one meal weekly (for instance, spaghetti on Sundays), then you will need fewer options. Pinterest is a great place to look for new meal ideas.
- Write out each item for each recipe so you know what to buy. Then check off the items you already have in your pantry or freezer.
- Check the ads and coupons. This will help you decide which meals to schedule for the first two weeks. Keep in mind you can freeze things for later, too, so stock up while it is on sale!
- Prepare items as soon as you get home from shopping. This will help minimize food waste, as well as let your other family members know not to use certain items. Freeze whatever items you can, and be sure to use the others before they go bad.
- Group your list by similarities. For example, if you are making crockpot chicken and chicken fajitas, schedule them during the same week so you can use the leftovers from the crockpot chicken in the fajitas. Also, if you have two different recipes that use the same vegetables, put those in the same week so you can buy and use the vegetables before they go bad. And if you don’t want to, you can just freeze your leftover veggies!
- Fill out your calendar! You can use your phone or computer calendar, a regular wall calendar, dry-erase board, or something fancier with an app. It helps to have your activities and schedules with you, too, so you can plan your meals accordingly. If you are super busy on certain days, be sure to schedule crockpot meals, casseroles, or something quick.
Do you have any additional tips on how to make meal planning easy?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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