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5 Life-Saving Meal Planning Tips

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5 Life-Saving Meal Planning Tips

Do you find yourself rushing around a few times a week, scrambling to get dinners together for the family? And more often than not you might also find that you don’t have all of the ingredients you need (you may secretly judge those who blast their pretty meal plans all over their Instagram stories while wishing you could be just like them). Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t need to take too much time. Yes, we’ll say it again for the people in the back: Meal planning isn’t hard and it doesn’t have to take a bunch of time!

Now that the school year is getting underway, you may be feeling overwhelmed when it comes to dinner time. Meal planning can help you figure out a systematic way to get your family healthy and nutritious meals without the experience of standing in front of a fridge wondering what you can throw together to make a meal. It will also help to reduce the number of times you eat out and the number of convenience meals you consume each week.

Plan Your Meal Planning

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Let’s just get one thing out of the way. Pinterest, with all of its cute, meticulously placed mason jar meals on immaculate, sparkling refrigerator shelves, is a lie. A bold-faced lie. Sure you can cook things and even assemble them ahead of time but for most people, especially folks with little ones, the pretty glass jar junk is for the birds.

RELATED: 8 Simple Meal Kids Can Make Independently

On the flip side, cooking every night may not be feasible. You’ll have to decide which method is most beneficial for your household and ensure that everyone is on board. More importantly, you will need to consider who you really are: Are you always exhausted on Friday nights? Do Wednesday night practices always make dinner come in a brown bag through a drive-thru? Know yourself and know your family’s schedule. Plan slow cooker meals for days that you get home late. Make every Friday pasta night. Really consider what works for your family and go with it. That may take a few weeks, so just be patient and trust the process.

Take Inventory

Once you figure out how you want your meals to go, its time to actually start the planning process. The first thing you should do is take inventory of things that you already have on stock and try to plan a meal from that. Check everywhere: The depths of the freezer. The back of the pantry. That weird cabinet that’s too high to reach and you haven’t had the guts to look inside it in six months. Those are the places to check before committing to grocery shopping. You never know what you might find lurking there. Nine times out of ten, you can use those frozen, canned, or dried goods!

Make a List and (Check it Twice) Stick to It

5 Life-Saving Meal Planning Tips

Do you ever find yourself running to the store for that one ingredient you don’t have to make that one meal during the week? It’s annoying. And then that trip turns into other trips as you progress through the week and before you know it, you’ve wasted more time (and money!) going back and forth.

Pick one day during the week — most choose Saturday or Sunday — to sit down with the family and plan out what you want to have that week. We’ve got some great suggestions if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas. Or if your people think “food” is an appropriate response to “what would you like to eat this week?”

As you create a menu for the week (or for the next two weeks, you do you boo), jot down the ingredients. Use the notes feature on your phone so you don’t forget that pesky, paper list when you head to the grocery store and vow not to deviate from it. Oh, and I highly recommend eating before you go shopping because shopping hangry isn’t wallet friendly.

When you’re finished shopping, hang your menu on your fridge so you can keep track of what you’ve had and what you still have left.

Shared Ingredients

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Using the same ingredients throughout the week makes it easier to assemble meals and helps save money. This is even better when that ingredient is on sale! Take a quick look before hitting the stores and if chicken breasts are on sale, consider making more chicken than beef this week.

Take rotisserie chicken, for example. Grab one of those babies and you can slice it and serve it up with veggies, shred it and make chicken salad sandwiches, or chop it up for barbecue chicken pizza. Seriously. Rotisserie chicken is a game changer. And it’s not just protein, this goes for any ingredient you can use in multiple recipes.

Meal Planning with Leftovers

Eating leftovers is an everyday thing in some households. It keeps those temptations to go out for lunch at bay and limits food waste and – saves you money! There are also numerous ways to reuse leftovers — get creative! 

And while we’re at it, don’t forget about those awesome kitchen devices that are designed to save you time. Yup, we’re talking about your Instant Pot, air fryer, and Crock Pot. Seriously. What’s better than plopping a boatload of ingredients in one vessel and leaving it to cook? These meals are typically bigger which means more food, more leftovers, and less cooking.


So there you have it – tips to make your meals a little easier this week. And if you’re struggling to find recipes, gimmesomeoven.com is one of our absolute favorite websites. Don’t forget about Pinterest, Google, or even an old-fashioned cookbook for inspiration.

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Amber is a Virginia girl turned expat living with her handsome hubby and five-year-old fur baby Gulliver in a quiet town in Yamaguchi, Japan. She earned an associate's degree in liberal arts and a bachelor's in English and has written everything from sketch comedy and screenplays to rhetorical arguments and poetry. She passed her level one sommelier exam in February 2018 through the Court of Master Sommeliers and loves learning about (tasting) new wines from all over the globe. She is the editor-in-chief and founder of Crumb & Splatter where she shares all things food, drink, and travel. When she's not working out or writing, she can be found honing her snowboarding skills in Hiroshima, exploring hiking trails with her pup, or creating wild dishes in the kitchen with her hubs and a great bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape within reach.

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