Quick, Easy, and Effective Meal Planning Tips

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We got hit hard this season with colds and sinus infections, but we’re finally all mended. Does anyone else feel like they get energy or perspective after a sickness? It’s like you forget what healthy feels like, and once you’re healthy you feel like you are capable of doing anything. Well, I decided to try to tackle something I’ve failed at many times before: meal planning.

I [think] I’ve finally got it down to something manageable and functional. Meal planning has helped our family because we’ve significantly reduced the amount of money we spend and the amount of food that goes to waste!

Quick, easy, effective meal planning tips

So, here are my meal planning tips that I hope save you time and money too!

  1. Start with a clean kitchen. Before you even start meal planning you should deep clean. Take everything out of your fridge, freezer and pantry. Throw out anything that’s gone bad. I try to do this at least every three months to keep the mess from getting unmanageable.
  2. Plan one week at a time. I’ve tried planning the entire month and it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve found that if I plan Sunday for the upcoming week I have a pretty good idea of what each day is going to look like.
  3. When choosing meals think about who will be eating, how much prep time you’ll have and if you’ll have any food close to it’s expiration date.
  4. I also plan a dinner for every night of the week and eat any leftovers for lunch. In the past I planned specific ‘leftover’ nights, but found that sometimes I wouldn’t have enough food and I was scrambling to put something together.
  5. Make a list. Once you’ve picked your meals, make a list of all the ingredients needed for the whole week. Check what you have and try to utilize what you already have in your pantry.
  6. Organize the list. Before I even go to the store I organize my list by department. By separating the list in that way it helps me navigate the grocery store efficiently and doesn’t give me to opportunity to wander and pick up impulse items!
  7. Keep your plan visible. I have our weekly meal plan hanging in our kitchen. My husband has learned to go to the board instead of asking me what’s for dinner. That alone is totally worth meal planning! It’s also a great reminder to make sure I defrost or prep food ahead of time. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all ended up eating mac and cheese solely because I didn’t defrost anything.
  8. Keep a few staples on hand. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. Maybe the dish you planned takes more time than you have. Maybe you tried a new recipe and it didn’t turn out like you’d hoped. Keeping a few quick staples on hand means you’ll still be prepared even when plans change. Mac and cheese, spaghetti, and hot dogs are just a few of the items I keep for quick meals at all times.
  9. Looking to save money? Go meatless. One of the reason we meal plan is to save some money.  Cutting meat for 2-3 dinners a week drastically cut our budget. We’ll use mushrooms instead of meatballs in pastas or have a taco salad with different type of beans instead of ground beef.

I promise by following these easy meal planning tips your life can be made not only easier, but more enjoyable when it comes to cooking. Are you someone who does meal planning, or do you just wing it? I’d love to hear your favorite meal planning secrets in the comments.

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Haley is an Arizona transplant who moved here from San Diego 12 years ago. She married her husband Nick in 2013 and they welcomed their son Emerson in December two years later. After the birth of their son Haley decided to leave her corporate job in order to stay home and spend more time with her family; a family that seems to be growing since a puppy, Nala, joined the crew in October and a baby girl is expected to make her debut in the summer of 2017. If Haley's not watching HGTV or running after an active toddler there is a good chance she's at Spotlight Youth Theater a local non-profit where she teaches dance. She also has a personal blog The Business of Blonde, where she documents her life and covers everything from getting out to debt to organizing her closet.

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