Meal planning can keep you on track and lower your grocery bill, making your wallet fatter and your evenings easier. By learning to dedicate time each week to getting organized, you’ll have dinner on the table at a decent time and be able to sit back and relax. Here are four rules to help you get started!
#1: Make a Menu
By planning out what you’ll serve on weeknights, you’ll know what ingredients you need to buy from the grocery store and have them ready to go. You’ll also reduce food waste! Sit down and choose a protein or two, then figure out which vegetables and starches work well with that meat. You can buy larger packs and save money if you plan it out ahead of time. By using different combinations of the same foods, you can have various meals with the same base ingredients.
#2: Prep Your Food and Use Your Time Wisely
Once you have your groceries home, you can pre-prepare a lot of items. Dedicate some time to chopping the vegetables for each night and putting them in separate containers to pull out of the fridge each evening quickly. Pre-make your seasonings that go with each meal. If you’re having tacos, getting the seasonings together at the beginning of the week and tucking them in a small salad dressing container with the veggies keeps it all organized! If you’re having soup for dinner, make it on prep day and freeze it. The night it’s on your menu, you can either pop it in the microwave or bring it to the temperature on the stove. This can be a huge time saver if you work full time and still want homemade meals during the week. Other foods like sauces can also be made on prep day and put in the fridge.
#3: Decide Which Meats To Marinate and Which To Freeze
Meats that you’ll use at the beginning of the week can be put in the fridge, and you can go ahead and rub them down or place them in the marinade. Meats used towards the end of the week can be frozen and taken out on Wednesday to keep them fresh. By using your menu to guide your timing, making meals becomes a lot less of a hassle.
#4: Make Your Pasta and Other Starches The Day Of, Then Cook The Rest
You don’t need to prepare every part ahead of time. Making fresh pasta and rice while using the items you’ve organized to cook the meal still reduces the time spent each evening and provides a fresh dinner for your family. The goal here is not to waste time brainstorming, gathering, chopping, and mixing the night of and instead focusing on bringing everything together.
While this seems like a decent amount of work, once you get in the habit, you’ll be so thankful you did. Meal planners regret the weeks they didn’t prepare because it makes evenings so much more enjoyable!