8 tips for meal planning {and a printable}

One thing I despise is seeing the clock say 5 pm and I have no idea what I'm making for dinner that night. Travis is typically home between 5-6pm and I really like having dinner ready or almost ready when he walks through the door. Our time is limited with the kids after he gets home and before they go to bed, so anything I can do to free up more time is beneficial to our family.

One of those things that helps me free up time is meal planning, I know that people think this isn't for them or that they won't stick to it, but once you have a routine down of doing it, it is so nice and a lifesaver!

Here are  my 8 tips for meal planning.

-Make a list of meals that you eat regularly and keep it somewhere accessible. (Like the side of your refrigerator, etc.) Anytime I make a meal and think to myself "I could that over and over" it goes on my list.

-Keep a running grocery list. This too, I keep right on the fridge on a magnetic notepad so when I think of things or as I'm planning my meals I always know where to find it.

-Know what you have on hand. I know that I always have certain things in my pantry, like pasta, sauces, soups, chicken broth, etc. Those are regular things that we stock up on when the stores have good sales. But it's important to know what you already have so you don't go out buying foods that are sitting on your shelf.

-A great way to keep your meals organized is by having a place to keep your list. Check out this printable I made. Print it out and stick it inside a clear "page protector" and slap it up on your fridge. Use a dry erase pen to write down this weeks meals and wipe it off and the end of the week to start over.

-Don't be afraid to try new things. If you make something you don't like then guess what? You don't have to make it again! That's a perk to being an adult! I try to make at least 1 new meal per week. It doesn't always happen and sometimes I make multiple new meals/sides/appetizers in one week, but what is important is that you try!

-Don't forget to use what you have on hand. At least once per month I make a weekly meal plan trying to use only what I have in my pantry. It's actually pretty easy to do and that week we'll have very minimal groceries to buy. There is always produce, milk, etc, but do what you can to use your stock so you're not wasting anything. Also, make sure you eat leftovers! At least once per week we eat leftovers for dinner or me and the little kids eat them for lunch.

-Keep your schedule in mind. Obviously if you are working late or have activities with the kids in the evening then you have to plan around that. But with crock pots and freezer meals and planning ahead there are so many recipes you can throw together for those busy nights. I stay at home and I still do plenty of crock pot recipes. Another thing I like to do is make a large meal- like a casserole and freeze half of it. Then I have it to pull from the freezer in the next few weeks. So many meals work as freezer meals, don't be afraid to try it. Not to mention a lot of people have already tried it and will tell you in the recipe if it does/does not freeze well. Check out Foodie Friday where I put an "FM" next to recipes that work as a "Freezer Meal".

-Shared Products. Is there something that you need for one recipe that will be leftover and you can use it in another recipe? For example, my husband always asked for a German Chocolate cake for his birthday, which uses buttermilk. After using the 2T or whatever small amount it calls for, I still have most of it leftover. So now I know that I am making fried chicken this week too. Make sense? I like to get the most out of the ingredients and hate dumping half of something because it didn't get used.

I am glad that I started meal planning. Most of the time we stick to our list and that eliminates the "What's for dinner" questions. Occasionally we stray from our list but we still end up eating that meal within the next few days because now I have everything to make it!

Do you want to see what's on my meal list? Check it out HERE and don't forget to check out Foodie Friday for some great recipes you just might want to try out! Thank you for coming by to check out my 8 tips for meal planning.

Do you meal plan? What works for you?

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