First things first - start small (unless you are up for a challenge!). When we first started meal planning we did it weekly and planned 2 or 3 nights; as we got the hang of planning ahead we added nights here and there until now we just sit down monthly. Oh what a relief!
Meal Planning Tips:
- Start with recipes you like and know how to cook, use these to simplify the start up.
- Plan new or difficult recipes on nights you have time to experiment.
- Make a list during the month of meals you would like to have or are inspired to try by the time next month comes around you will have a great head start.
- Similarly you can try to make a list of 20 meals (or 10 for you and 10 for your spouse) then just place them on a calendar and voila meal plan!
- Make planning the remained of the meals fun pull out cookbooks and magazines (if you have kids include their ideas).
- Plan on an empty stomach - trust me you will be much more successful this way!
- Look at your calendar - if you have a long day crock pot meals may be best, if you are eating brunch out on Sunday you may want a smaller dinner, if you have plans you don't need a meal.
- Coordinate your meals - use a whole chicken on Monday then make chicken enchiladas on Tuesday and Chicken Alfredo on Friday. Using larger cuts of meat is healthier, cheaper, and gives variety!
- Add sides weekly based on sale ads. Pick vegetables that are on sale to help cut the grocery budget. Other sides like rice and beans are best when stockpiled and chosen ahead of time (we have been known to spend more than 20 minutes choosing a side dish - eek).
- Have variety - don't make pasta five times a week for three weeks you will burn yourself out! One new thing we are trying is having a category for each day of the week. Monday - Mexican; Tuesday - Pasta; etc etc.
- Be flexible - sometimes things come up (your husband just really wants to barbecue not cook indoors or you really honestly don't feel like beef stew on a 110 degree day) that's okay! We do try to plan for the weather a bit - although lately this has proven more difficult than usual.
- Invest in some good cookbooks/magazines or get to know some great websites!
- Have fun - oops I think I already said that!
Ash of All Trades
PS Please feel free to leave any additional tips as a comment - we are always open to new ideas!