Meal planning – tips to make it fun and easy!

We started meal planning several years ago when my daughter was small.  I find if we don’t have a plan we will eat out more, become impatient, eat unhealthy and feel overwhelmed at meal times. Here are few tips and tricks that will help you along the way to planning a week’s worth of amazing meals:

Ask for input:  I know coming from me this sounds crazy because I like control but it is important to include your family in the weekly meal planning process.  I try to engage my daughter by asking her what she would like to eat during the week. I also find this is a good way to start conversation and teach her about healthy choices – no we cannot have cake for dinner on Wednesday!

Map out your week:  Take out a calendar or a sheet a paper; mark down important events that might impact your ability to get dinner on the table.  Soccer at 615pm when you only get home at 530pm means dinner either needs to be prepared ready to eat from the Crockpot or a quick meal that is just a reheat.  There are also lots of websites or computer programs available to help.  I use Cook’n, which is a computer program that allows you to search their database for recipes and also input your own.  One feature I love is the grocery list, drag and drop your recipes for each day and then click on the grocery list – ezzy pezzy!

Check the weekly flyers:  We have a weekly grocery budget that I try to stick but it doesn’t always work out for me.  Sometimes I just have to have the most expensive steak at the butchers!  So this makes the weekly flyers super important.  I often use these for inspiration for my weekly plan, if something is on sale that we like it will definitely make it on to our meal plan for the week.  Also look at which stores will price match, I hate going to too many stores just for a deal, seriously you don’t save a dollar by driving across town – time is money!

Check your Cupboards:  We all buy several of a family favorite item when they are on sale, put it at the back of the cupboard and forget it’s there!  Try always looking into your cupboard and seeing what inspiration you can find before going to the store.  It is great to have staple items on hand but at some point you need to use them or it’s just a waste.

Be Flexible: I’m a foodie but even I don’t always feel like cooking.  Staying flexible will help you not get bored or feel boxed in by a plan.  Having a plan helps you to always have the makings for an amazing meal, doesn’t mean it has to be the one on the plan – so tonight is pasta with meat sauce but you feel like meatloaf, that’s ok because you have the start of an amazing Italian meat loaf!

Just remember, meal planning should be fun and I encourage you to involve your whole family.  I like nothing better than getting out my mother’s old cook books taking a stroll down memory lane with my daughter while figuring out our meals for the week.

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