How to Simplify Meal Planning

How to simplify meal planning to make your day run more smoothly.

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.

Meal planning takes the guesswork out of dinner, making your busy nights go more smoothly.

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.

Simplify meal planning to make your week run more smoothly.

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?

Need more organization tip and strategies?? Find all 14 Days of Organization here!

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Super Simple Stuffed Shells

Sometimes you need an easy go-to recipe for a hearty meal that makes everyone happy. Kids of all ages are notorious for their various (and mostly inconsistent) food gripes, and mine are no exception. Take this little slice of heaven for example:

My Little Gal: What’s for dinner?
Me: Stuffed shells.
Little Gal: (with 4-year-old distaste) What’s stuffed shells?
Me: It’s kind of like spaghetti but with a different kind of pasta. It’s yummy.
Little Gal: I don’t like stuffed shells.
Me: (sigh.)

Fast-forward to dinner time:
Little Gal: Mom, I tried it and I love stuffed shells!
Me: Yay.

A quick and easy meal that makes everyone happy at dinner time.

Ingredients

1 box jumbo shells
1 1/4lbs ground turkey (or beef)
about 1/2-3/4 jar pasta sauce or 2 – 2 1/2cups pre-made sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain. Let it cool.

2. Brown the ground turkey (or beef) until cooked through. Turn down the heat and add all but about 3/4 cup of the pasta sauce. If you use beef, drain the fat before adding the sauce. Stir occasionally to heat through the sauce and then mix in about 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

3. Fill each pasta shell with a large spoonful of the sauce mixture and lay the filled shells side by side in a baking dish. Pour remaining pasta sauce over the shells and sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top.

4. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

A quick and easy meal that makes everyone happy at dinner time.

Serve and enjoy!

Linking to…
Home Stories A2ZBecoming Martha

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Banana Oatmeal Muffins

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest for easy banana oatmeal muffins, it was one of those no-brainer pins. I didn’t look at the full recipe right away because the description was enough of a sell. Easy? Good. Banana? Good. Muffins? Goood. (Name that show!)

Delicious and easy banana muffins.

The recipe on Keeping Up With the Joneses is super easy and uses basic ingredients. I also read a few of the comments to see if anyone had done anything differently. It’s always nice to have options right?! Both kiddos helped me and the muffins turned out to be so yummy! Even my fussy little guy likes them.

You can see the original recipe here and how Jess made them, but I’ll tell you what I did differently. For one, I used my food processor instead of a blender. Basically our blender sucks and my food processor doesn’t so it was an easy decision.

I gave the oats a spin in the food processor before adding anything else to make them smoother and easier to blend in the batter. I also used a 6oz vanilla yogurt instead of Greek yogurt because that’s what I had on hand. Because I was using a sweeter yogurt, I cut the sugar back to a 1/2 cup based on some of the comments on the post. Otherwise I stuck to the ingredients and followed the instructions.

Next time I make these, I would use riper bananas. I usually wait until my bananas are softer and a little brown before baking with them, but I’m impatient and these sounded good. I also might throw in some mini chocolate chips and see how that goes. These banana oatmeal muffins are more dense than traditional muffins because they don’t contain flour, but they are delicious and actually a good size for little ones. They take a few minutes to whip up and only 20-25 to bake. Success!

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