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Tips For Effective Meal Planning

It’s a new year and chances are you’ve made resolutions. As parents, those resolutions usually include being more organized (in various ways). Last year I resolved to plan our meals more regularly and it is one that I stuck to. I’ve put together some of my favorite tips for effective meal planning.

If you’re not already planning your meals every week, chances are you’re wasting a lot of time and money. Effective meal planning makes life easier as it frees up time and money, and minimizes food waste. Since starting meal planning I find we throw away very little.

What Is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is all about making a list of what you’re going to eat at each meal. There are lots of meal plans (with shopping lists) available on the internet. You’ll find that if you put together you’re own you will soon have a selection to choose from each week with your family’s favorite meals.

It’s as simple as deciding on your meals, making a shopping list, and buying ingredients. It gets even easier as you start rotating menus.

Meals And Snacks

Depending on your lifestyle you will need to plan two or three meals a day, plus structured snacks. Try to make your menu as balanced as possible and remember to eat a rainbow of vegetables! Think of interesting snacks that your family can take with them, that don’t require refrigeration.

I’ve found that having healthy snacks available to choose from has empowered Lexi to make good food choices on her own.

For school lunches go beyond sandwiches and experiment with thermos recipes and leftovers.

Transform Your Proteins

One roast or rotisserie chicken can be stretched over more than one meal with a bit of planning. So can a roast beef or pork tenderloin. Cook and eat the meal for dinner and portion the rest into a range of dishes for lunch the next day. Some of my family-pleasing options are:
  • Stir fry
  • Burritos / tacos / enchiladas
  • Fajitas
  • Curried chicken salad
  • Chicken mayonnaise sandwiches
  • Sliced roast beef sandwiches
  • Salad with strips of whatever protein you have
  • Chicken Caesar salad
  • Pot pie Stuffed peppers

The Leftovers Dilemma

Meal planning has almost completely eliminated food waste in our household, with the exception of leftovers. I feel strongly that food thrown away is money thrown away.

Planning is the solution! Most kids don’t like leftovers, they want something new and interesting at every meal. So leftovers are pushed to the back of the fridge and end up being forgotten and thrown back away.

Make And Freeze Meals

If your family won’t eat leftovers it’s time to arm yourself with glass freezer containers. Parcel leftovers into “TV dinners” and freeze them. It’s a great way to cater to everyone’s preferences and prepare ahead for busy days. Portion leftovers as-is for another day, or “repackage” into some of the meals above. Label clearly (I use a sharpie on the lid) and freeze. Before you know it you’ll have a freezer full of emergency meals.

Rotating Meal Plans

I’ve found it helpful to date each week’s meal plan and keep it. It’s great to go back when you are looking for inspiration. Dating the meal plans makes it easy to see how long ago you made those recipes and what season it was.

When I got to the stage where I had 4 weeks of meal plans I rotated them, only occasionally adding another one to include seasonal recipes.

To get you started I am offering a free meal planner to new subscribers. Subscribe to download my free meal planner and get additional tips and recipes. This week I’ll be sharing tricks for using leftovers.

For quick easy recipes, check out my RECIPE section.

Happy new year!
Last updated: 6 April 2021

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