Confession: meal planning is not my strong suit. I know it would help my week go more smoothly, but I struggle with implementing this strategy. One of my goals this year is to improve in this area so I’m taking steps to simplify meal planning.
prep some Back-up freezer meals
To start, I want to have a few crockpot meals in the freezer for busy days. Even this takes some planning because most meals have to thaw beforehand.
If I look ahead at the week and see that Thursday is going to be busy, I’ll have to thaw a freezer meal on Wednesday to make dinner easier the next night.
I did some research on Pinterest for freezer meals and found Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have a great post for making 8 slow cooker freezer meals in one hour. I chose three of the eight meals to start: Black Bean Taco Soup, Hearty Beef Stew, and Cilantro Lime Chicken.
I labeled gallon Ziploc bags with each meal, today’s date, and the time each takes in the slow cooker. Then I just followed the instructions and dumped everything in. It took me about an hour to get everything ready for these three meals.
use a Menu Tracking Sheet
Each week, I can usually predict which nights I need to have a meal that’s either in the crockpot all day or very quick to prepare. Particularly when the kids have activities that end on the later side, I don’t want a dinner that takes a long time to prep or cook.
With a menu tracking sheet, you avoid the 5 o’clock panic that sets in when you don’t have a plan for dinner. You also know what needs to be done ahead of time, such as thawing a frozen meal to go in the crockpot.
There are a zillion menu planning sheets on Pinterest. I personally like a weekly option that also has space for a grocery list, such as this one from Finding Time to Fly. The grocery section is even broken down by category.
Keep a Favorite Meals List
If your family is anything like ours, I’m sure you make a lot of the same dinners over and over again. My kids are on the younger side (and one of them is picky) so it makes mealtime a lot more pleasant when everyone enjoys what we eat.
Sitting down to plan the weekly menu is a lot harder when you’re relying on your own memory to come up with options that everyone likes. To simplify the meal planning process, keep a list of family favorites handy so you aren’t trying to remember if you’ve ever eaten anything besides tacos.
Just these three simple strategies make meal planning less of a chore. By planning ahead, you’ll be less rushed, spend less money at the grocery store, and waste less food.
How do you make meal planning easier?
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