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If you are looking for easy meal planning tips, then you have come to the right place! Whether you are a meal plan warrior or don’t meal plan at all, these 10 easy meal planning tips will make life easier for all meal planners out there!
To meal plan or not to meal plan, that is the question! If you don’t meal plan, how does dinner time look for you? Is it crazy? Are you running to the store every day on the way home from work? Have all these random ingredients in your pantry (from those random stops at the grocery store)?
Are you struggling on how to start meal planning? You love the idea but are overwhelmed with information? Are you looking to make grocery shopping and meal time easier?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you are in the right place!
10 Easy Meal Planning Tips to Make Life Easier
#1 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Save Money
Yep, I said it. When I meal plan AND stick to it, I save money every week on my grocery bill. I mean, who doesn’t like to save money!
Why does meal planning save you money? When you meal plan and stick with it, you aren’t ordering delivery, picking up take-out, or stopping at the grocery store overnight after work trying to find something you want to eat.
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To take this one step further, meal plan around the sales flyer. If chicken is on sale, stock up and make a few chicken dinners that week. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables because they are always cheaper when they are in season.
#2 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Save Time
Do you remember me mentioning above about stopping at the grocery store after work? Have you every noticed when you do that its super packed and everyone is all cranky (they are feeling rushed because they didn’t plan).
When you meal plan constantly (I do weekly) you are only going to the grocery store once! Or, you can order your groceries for pick up, never leaving your car, or have them delivered, never leaving your house!
Also, if you plan quick and easy meals, you are saving time by skipping the take-out/eating out! Epicure has many meals that go from Raw to Ready in 20 minutes or less! You can’t go through drive-through in that amount of time!
#3 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – What’s in Your Fridge?
When you are first getting the hang of meal planning, check what’s in your fridge and see if those carrots you forgot about are looking a little dodgy or if they are still crisp. If they are on the dodgy side, plan a soup (soups don’t mind dodgy veggies).
Next check what’s in your freezer for items that need to get used up. This one gets me all the time, stuff ends up hiding in there way too long and then it gets freezer burn so bad that it is unrecognizable!
After you have checked the fridge and freezer, check your pantry. Do you need some rice to go with that stir-fry you planned? How are you doing on canned diced tomatoes?
Always shop your fridge, freezer, and pantry while you are meal planning so your are consistently using what is there and not letting anything sit too long.
#4 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Plan on Leftovers
I hate throwing food away! I can’t tell you how many times I have and it pisses me off every time. It’s like throwing cash in the trash!!! Food is expensive and I have to buy everything gluten-free as well and those items are uber expensive!
Since I have teenagers, I normally only have enough for one serving of leftovers on any given day at best; however, I still don’t like those to go to waist so when I am meal planning I factor in a leftover night. I give everyone options (parents votes take priority of course, lol) and then I divvy the leftovers up.
#5 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Plan Breakfast and Lunches Too!
Even if your kids eat cereal every day, plan that so you don’t run out or overbuy (those boxes are huge!). I have one who eats cereal every day, the other rotates between waffles and bagels. I buy enough for the week since I shop weekly and that way I am not filling up my fridge/freezer/pantry with too much overstock for “later”. (The exception- sales, definitely stock up when there are sales!!!). The hubs and I eat oatmeal every day so I make a batch for the week in my Instant-pot, portion it out into individual servings and then we are good all week.
Before I started meal planning lunches I would eat leftovers, graze, or forget to eat and then be hangry, lol. Like I said earlier, leftovers were hit or miss so more times than not I would eat junk and then feel like junk. Now I plan, make-ahead so I can just reheat it and it has worked much better! I also feel better and am no longer tempted to hit the drive-through!
#6 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Theme Nights!
You might be wondering what Theme Nights are, think Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday. I can’t say that I do this regularly; however, I do a version of it.
On Tuesdays we always have a lot going on so I opt for a crockpot meal so it’s ready when I get home. (Sometimes it’s also leftover night, just depends on what’s going on)
Easy meal planning is the key, right? Choosing a theme for each day of the week definitely helps you meal plan easily.
Some options for you are:
- Crockpot Night
- Taco Tuesday
- Meatless Monday
- Breakfast Night
- Pasta Night
- Chicken Night
- Salad Night
- Soup/Stew Night
Hopefully you find some inspirations for you. If you have other ideas, post them below! I would love to hear about them and I’m sure it would inspire others as well.
#7 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Stick to the Same Shopping Day
Meal planning is a lot easier when you meal plan and shop on the same days of the week. You will start to get a feel for how frequently you need to purchase certain items so you are over or under buying.
I normally meal plan on Fridays and make my list. I shop on Sunday mornings, early before there is a crowd. I come home, and then meal prep for the week. This is what I have found works for me, play around with it and see what makes sense for you.
#8 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Get Buy In
What does buy in mean? Ask the people you are cooking for what they want (within reason of course, lol). I don’t know about you, but I hate planning everything out, do the shopping and then no one wants to eat what I made.
I always ask, but I don’t always accommodate. Some of our family favorites are time consuming and need to be planned out further.
When starting to meal plan, start with your easy family favorites, it will make it easier on you and your family will already have buy in. For us, it was tacos, pasta with my homemade red sauce, etc. These were easy to make and I knew everyone would love them. It is also less stressful to start with your easy go to meals.
#9 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Double Duty
The whole point of easy meal planning is to make your live easier, right? Well one of my favorite things to do is cook once and eat twice (or more). Before I had teenagers who devour everything, I would cook 3lbs of ground turkey for tacos and freeze the leftovers for another meal down the road. Now, we eat most of it and I might have enough to make nachos one night for dinner.
If you intend to grill up some chicken, can you grill double the amount? Things like that will help you meal plan and eat up what you have on hand.
#10 of 10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Lazy Night
This is different than leftover night. Maybe your family love pizza and you do a pizza night – this would be a lazy night. Sometimes we will do a snack dinner which is really more a charcuterie board. It may even mean we order in or do sandwiches. Not only does it make dinner time super easy, normally everyone is happy.
10 Easy Meal Planning Tips – Wrap Up
You may have noticed that I factor in some meals that are already cooked or super easy which means I only plan 5 dinner each week. This is what I found works for us. It took me a while to get there so don’t beat yourself up when things don’t work out as planned. There will be a lot of trial and error until you find your groove.
Bonus Easy Meal Planning Tips!
- Find a schedule that works for you! I prefer weekly, but bi-weekly or monthly might be more your style.
- Try to choose frozen vegetables for about 50% of your list when you can. It saves $ and they last longer.
- Always check the grocery flyers for sale items and stock up when you can.
- You can also save $ by always having a meatless dinner each week. Beens are a great source of protein, so try to rotate them in.
- Try to plan meals that will use similar ingredients so nothing goes to waste. For example: you need 1/2 cup of sour cream for one meal, what do you do with the rest of the container? Maybe have baked potatoes as a side so you can use that container up before it walks out of the fridge.
- When buying fresh produce, but what’s in season. It will always be cheaper than the other produce.