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Don’t Miss These 17 Meal Planning Hacks that are Truly Amazing! 

Meal planning hacks will make your menu planning a breeze. These tips will make meal planning simple and easy!

Why Meal Plan, Anyway?

How many times have you looked at the clock, only to realize you have no idea what’s for dinner, again!

But your busy schedule doesn’t give you the time to run to the store and prepare a meal and so you just grab something while you’re out, or worse yet, you eat cereal…again!

I’m gonna guess, it’s happened to you more than once. I know it’s happened to me! Actually, more times than I’d like to admit. And although the kids don’t seem to mind, I know it is not healthy for their bodies or my pocket book.

But what do you do? Meal Planning allows you to have extra time in the evening to make dinner for your family so you can all sit down together, even if its only for 10 minutes.

It also makes everyone stop their busy lives if only for just a few minutes, which can bring a sense of calmness to your home. 

So if you’re looking for a way to make meal planning a cinch, these 17 amazing meal planning hacks are gonna help you out a ton!

1. Rotate Menu Plans

Rotating menus you’ve used before makes it easier to meal plan, because you already have a menu and list of ingredients already set up for you.

So how do you do this? After you put together a menu for the week, write down the menu and all the ingredients needed and keep it somewhere that’s easy to find.

Then reuse this same menu in the next month or two. This will save you a lot of time on planning! After a month or two of coming up with new menus you can recycle them each month and no one will be the wiser! 

2. Set Up Pinterest Boards to Store You Recipes

Pinterest is my favorite place to go for new recipes.

I could lie in bed for hours just looking at everything. But it’s also a good place to organize recipes too. You can create as many boards as you want for all different categories of food.

You can have boards for dinners, lunches, meatless dinners, Italian food, easy snack ideas and the list goes on and on. Then when it’s time to make your meal plan, it’s like having a giant cookbook of all your favorite and most loved recipes just waiting for you. 

3. Stick to a Meal Planning Routine

Schedule meal planning right into your calendar at the same time every week. Set aside a time for meal planning, shopping and prepping.

This will make sure you get it done and that you don’t forget or push it aside until you end up having no time left. If it helps, use the reminder app on your phone to prompt you to meal plan.

You can also set a timer to remind you to start cooking every day. If something comes up during the time you normally meal plan, it’s ok to change the time once or twice but try your hardest to stay on a regular routine, so you get into the habit of it. 

4. Use Theme Nights to Plan Your Meals Quickly

Planning theme night can not only make the planning process easier, it can also make it fun!

Think, Meatless Monday, Thai Tuesday, Something New on Wednesday, Mexican on Thursday, Fun Friday, etc. Then choose recipes that fit into those themes and repeat it each week, switching out the recipes.

Consider having everyone take turns picking a meal, or assign everyone a day in which they plan and help prep that meal.

Planning your weekly menu this way allows you save time since you won’t have to go through all your Pinterest boards and all your cookbooks trying decide what looks the best.

Instead, you now have a sense of direction.

5. Set Up a Master List of Theme Night Ideas

If you don’t want to rotate through the same six or seven themes each week, create a list of lots of different theme options and then pick which themes you want to do for the week.

We all know about Meatless Monday, and Taco Tuesday  but what about Thrifty Thursday or Finger Food Friday? You can do breakfast for dinner or left-over night for easy clean ups. Also try an Asian night, Italian night, or maybe even a seafood night.

You could also plan a dinner where you cook from your grandmas old book of recipes or a night where you try a recipe you’ve never done before. 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to themes.

6. Don’t Make Everything from Scratch

I remember when I started meal planning. I was intimidated because I thought this meant I had to make everything from scratch, every night of the week, or I wasn’t a good meal planner. But with little ones running around the house demanding attention this just wasn’t possible!

However, meal planning isn’t about making a three course dinner every night. Meal planning is all about knowing what to expect and doing what works best for you.

So do what you need. Rely on a frozen pizza in the freezer once in a while or buy a can of spaghetti sauce instead of making it from scratch.

Do whatever you need to do in order to make meal planning work for you. Some weeks you’ll have more time and/or more ambition and some weeks you won’t. So just go with what you’ve got, girl!  

7. Learn to Enjoy Meal Planning

Meal planning can seem daunting and overwhelming, but it can actually be quite enjoyable and something you can learn to love.

Use themes to bring some creative fun to your week, use Pinterest to find new and exciting recipes to get you excited about cooking. Get together with some friends each week and meal plan together.

Above all, make sure you find pride in each and every meal you put together for your family. Time together as a family is precious and should be enjoyed to the fullest.

When you have your week of meals planned out, and you’re having homemade dinners at least a couple times a week, you don’t have to feel guilty when you do eat out, cuz you know these plans were put in place for good reasons and not last minute desperations. 

8. Join a Meal Planning Facebook Group

I love going to Facebook and joining a new meal planning groups! You can find groups on Facebook for anything and everything you’re interested in, including meal planning!

These groups not only can give you help on menu ideas and cheap dishes but you can help each other stay up to date on specials and sales going on in surrounding cities. 

9. Swap Recipes with Friends

I have several friends who meal plan. They’re actually the ones  who convinced me to finally try it out for myself. Ask your friends and see if they would be interested in joining you in your new meal planning endeavor!

Try putting together a recipe swap group with your friends, where every month you all come together and share your favorite recipes! You’d be amazed at how many good ideas will come out of the woodwork! 

10. Learn to Freeze Leftovers and Add Them to Future Menu Plans

Many meals end up with leftovers. To save money, waste and time, make sure to eat all your leftovers by freezing them and using them for meals later in the month.

Most food can last up to six months in the freezer. You can also freeze uneaten fruits, vegetables and meats you didn’t use during the week, so you can use them later for different recipes. 

11. Keep it Simple

Don’t worry about planning big fancy dinners every night (or even at all, if you don’t want to!) Make sure to keep to the basics and keep it simple.

The main dish is what’s really filling everybody up, so don’t worry about always planning a side with your dinners. Use a bag of frozen veggies or two for your side dishes.

Also try and pick dinners that require only a few ingredients. These dinners not only take less time but will cost less as well. 

12. Buy Produce That’s Already Been Chopped

When I first found out that I could by chopped up butternut squash and beets in the frozen food section at Walmart, my world was forever changed! (Ok, that might be a bit extreme, but you get the picture.)

My family has a favorite vegetable soup we love and it would take me tons of time to cut up all the veggies, Not to mention all the mess.

To save time you can buy many ingredients and produce pre-chopped. This can save you quite a bit of time in the kitchen, but remember, many ingredients that come pre-chopped may also cost a little more. So make sure to double check the price and weigh the extra cost with time saved. (In this case, to me, it’s worth it!)

13. Cook Similar Meals Together

When you’re meal planning, pick recipes that need the same or similar ingredients. This will allow you to cut you prep time down.

If you have one meal, like tacos, for example, that requires ground beef, try picking other meals to eat that week that also include ground beef. Maybe something like Shepard’s Pie. (One of my family’s favorites!) This allows you to cook all the ground beef at once and then you can divide and season as needed. 

14. Store at Least Three Meals in Your Freezer to Fall Back On

You never know when life is going to happen and sometimes you need an extra meal. Maybe you couldn’t get your meal planning done yesterday and now you have nothing to eat today. Or maybe you burned dinner again. It happens!

An easy way to combat this is to have freezer meals ready to go at a moment’s notice. It can be left over meals you’ve frozen (see above) or frozen pizza you picked up at the store, but make sure to always have at least three meals you can fall back on. You’ll be happy you did! 

15. Keep a Few Easy Meals on Hand

Not only is it important to have freezer meals handy, it’s also nice to keep a few super easy meals on your list for when your days get busy without warning.

That way you won’t need much time or prep and you can pop it into the oven and carry on with your day.

16. Use Your Fridge and Freezer as a Dry Erase Board and Write the Inventory on the Door

I love, love, love this hack! It’s one of my favorites! One time when my husband and I were fridge shopping, I noticed that the model I was interested in came with a dry erase option for the finish. For only a couple hundred extra dollars I could turn my fridge into a huge dry erase board.

What??

Wait a minute!

Why couldn’t I just use any old refrigerator to do the same thing and save the extra money? So I went with the plain white model fridge, saved the money, and bought myself a set of dry erase markers and now I have an easy way to keep track of the fridge/freezer inventory.

Years later, when my family switched to a black fridge, we used neon chalk pens to do the same thing. Now, after several moves, we have a stainless steal fridge and it doesn’t work. I sure do miss that hack! To resolve it, posting a small white board on the fridge works just as well. It’s just not as cool!

You can use this quick and easy way to always know what’s in your fridge and freezer. Write down what you’ve put in or taken out of the fridge the moment you do it and you’ll never lose your list! It makes grocery shopping so much easier! 

17. Use The Meal Planning Binder

Last, but not least, meal planning does require organization. You have to plan out meals, make a grocery list, etc. But no fear!

I’ve put together the perfect Meal Planning Binder, to help you stay organized and keep your meal planning simple!

My Meal Planning Binder has places not only for your weekly menu and grocery list but a place to list out everything in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

It also has a spot for your budget and dietary needs, a calendar so you can keep track of what crazy things are going on during the week and more!

Quickly print out The Meal Planner here and see for yourself, how much easier it makes meal planning!

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:

 

What meal planning hacks would you add to this list? Comment below and share your best tricks for menu planning with me!

 

These meal planning hacks will make your menu prep a breeze! These helpful tips will take the stress out of menu planning so you can enjoy more time doing the things you love!

17 {Amazing} Meal Planning Hacks

 

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