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Why Should You Meal Plan, Anyway?

This article is full of tips to meal plan quickly:

For some reason, the dinner hour used to sneak up on me every single day! It’s funny how that happens, right??! No matter what, when I looked up at the clock, I found myself unprepared and frustrated.

Why?

Because I didn’t think that meal planning was all that important, honestly!

If you haven’t planned your menu for the week, then the chances are, you’re in the same boat as I was.

Eating meals at home is so beneficial. Not only does meal planning save money and is healthier, but it can bring families closer together, which is a nice little added benefit of meal planning.***

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 it is only for a few minutes. Everyone enjoys a home cooked meal!

But, I’m Too Busy to Meal Plan

Whatever you believe about meal planning, believe this…you’re too busy not to meal plan!! Like I said above, meal planning gives you the freedom to have a real dinner every night. When you take the time to plan your meals, you’ll already have all your meals selected, groceries bought, prepared and organized in the fridge.

So, on game day all you’ll have to do is prepare your meal and eat. I know you might be thinking, I can’t spend several hours on the weekend just shopping, planning and prepping. I mean, you are busy, after all. But I’m here to say, you’re too busy not to meal plan!

While meal planning might be the last thing you think you have time for, when you make the time to organize your weekly menu, you’ll redeem so much time.

Since you’re busy, you have to get creative with your time. Try taking Friday or Saturday night and do all your shopping online. Many stores offer free online ordering and pick-up. That way all you’ll have to do is run by the grocery store and grab your ingredients.

Some stores and services even deliver food right to your door with little to no extra charge! Then the following day, enforce the help of everyone in your house who can help, to prepare as much food as possible.

Wondering how to plan meals quickly? These tips will help you get your menu planned quickly and efficiently!

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

I know, I know. Everything I said above might seem a little overwhelming, and it might not sound any easier than what you’re doing right now. I was a sceptic too.

After so many friends were telling me how much it helped them out, and how it made the rest of the week so much easier, I decided to try it out. The first time with be a little scary. It definitely gets easier as you practice. Just try it! I promise you it’s really not that hard.

Want a little extra help getting started? Check out my blog post about meal planning for beginners. It outlines the process of meal planning step-by-step, making it that much easier!

Trust me, if you have time to read articles about meal planning you have time to do it! Don’t sell yourself short! You can do it!

Don’t Set Too High of Goals or Expectations

Not everyone has the time to cook a nice dinner every night. Maybe you ran out of time to cut up all the vegetables Saturday night. That’s ok. Meal planning is about working around your schedule.

Do what you can and don’t stress about it. Below are a few ways to keep your expectations in check and not stress. 

Look Ahead in Your Schedule and Note any Meals You Won’t be eating at Home

Sometimes we feel guilty not eating at home, and with meal planning we think this means we have to eat every dinner at home or were failing as a meal planner.

This is not true at all!

Meal planning isn’t about adding stress to your life, or striving to do what isn’t possible. It’s about knowing what to expect.

If you have a night this week that you can eat dinner at home, take advantage of that! Share time with your family. But, if you don’t have time, make grabbing a meal on-the-go part of the plan!

This way you won’t have to feel guilty, because it’s part of the plan! Not an act of desperation. Remember…do what works for you!

Pick Your Top Seven Favorite Recipes

Coming up with six or seven meals in advance can seem a little daunting and sometimes you can’t think of that many. What if nothing sounds good at the moment? I find that an easy way to do this is by asking everyone in my family for their favorite meals. I always enjoy the ideas they come up with.

By doing this, not only do you not have to do it all yourself, but you know everyone has at least one meal they like, so there can be no complaining later on in the week!

Also, go through your Pinterest account or cook book and look for recipes that seem to be favorites that your family could eat any day of the week.

One of our favorite dinners is baked burritos. My husband could probably eat them three times a week without complaining. So when I’m out of ideas this is usually a go-to recipe. 

Prep as Much as You Can Ahead of Time

Prepare as much as you can in one day so that all you have to do at dinner time is put everything together. How do you do this? Wash all the fruits and vegetables and cut them up. Just remember not to cut up the foods that might dry out or go brown, like apples and cucumbers.

Pre-make anything you can. Assemble soups and casseroles, divide up snacks and organize them all in the pantry and fridge so they are easy to find. Pre-cook pasta, mix any sauces you might be having later in the week.

You can also pre-cook things like taco meat, which you can then rewarm the night of your planned meal. Divide up any meats you don’t want to pre-cook into meal-sized portions and organize them in the fridge or freezer. 

Although this may seem overwhelming and time consuming, it’s so worth it. By meal prepping ahead of time, you only have one night a week with a really messy kitchen! Which means clean up throughout the week will be at a minimal. (And that alone might be worth it!) It will definitely help your busy lifestyle! 

Shop for and Cook as Much as You Can in Bulk

If you know tacos are a staple in your home you can buy the bigger quantities of ground beef, which are cheaper by the pound, divide it up into dinner-sized servings and freeze!

This will save you even more money and more time later on. Just remember that it’s in your freezer so you can use it in your meal planning for weeks to come. You can use the ground beef for other meals, as well. The time you’ll save prepping your meals will be phenomenal.  

Make Each Night a Theme

Having a theme night for each day of the week will make your meal planning much quicker and more efficient. I recommend keeping an ongoing list of ideas that fit into each theme. (Pinterest is a great way to find themed-meal ideas.)

Divide up your recipes by category. For example, list all meatless recipes under the meatless category, all Thai recipes under Asian, and so on. Your categories could be anything you choose.

Soup, salad, lunches, etc. Consider setting up Pinterest boards for each category you’ve chosen and then you can source your recipes from there.

Once you have your list of themed meal ideas, assign each night a theme. Meal planning will be quick and easy once you’ve established your ideas. Then you just go through each night and pick a recipe that will fit your theme. See how fast you can meal plan?

Use Your Kitchen Appliances

Having the right kitchen appliances will make your meal planning and prepping much faster. After all, having the right tools to work with makes things much quicker.

Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is a wonder! Having chicken soup for dinner and don’t want to pre-cook the chicken? The instant pot can cook frozen chicken in 20 minutes from start to finish with no supervision.

If everything else is already prepared, you you can throw the chicken in the Instant Pot, go run some errands, and have dinner right ready the moment you walk in the door! It is my absolute favorite kitchen gadget! 

Crock Pot

The Crock Pot should not be overlooked as one of the most handy kitchen gadgets. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and since it takes no supervision and can cook meats and soups, as well as many other meals, you should definitely make sure to add a Crock Pot to your collection! 

Air Fryer

The Air Fryer can speed up your meal prepping process, as well as free up your oven space so you can cook two things at once! That will definitely save you time! 

Have an Easy Meal You Can Fall Back On for the Days You Mess Up Your Schedule

It’s easy for something to pop up without warning. It’s part of life. So your meal plan gets messed up again. That’s ok! Just make sure you have something in the freezer or fridge you can fall back on when this happens.

Always make sure to freeze any leftovers you may have at the end of each meal. You’ll build up your reserve of meals to draw from when something comes up and you can’t stick to your meal plan.

That way you’ll save so much time by not running to the store or going through the drive thru for a last minute meal! 

Additional Tips to Meal Plan Quickly

In addition to the tips I mentioned above, here are a few other ideas that are worth mentioning:

1. Find Recipes on Pinterest and Pin Them in Your Free Time

Who doesn’t enjoy looking through Pinterest while in bed or watching a show? When you mindlessly scroll through Pinterest on your free time, you’ll inadvertently be working on your meal plan and you won’t even realize it!

It’ll save you so much time when you’re ready to put your meal plan together. 

2. Keep a Calendar of all the Meals You’re Already Making

After you make a weeklong menu of food you know your family will like and it works with your busy schedule, keep this menu written down and repurpose it next month.

This will make your meal planning even quicker, as you already have a menu and grocery list all planned out. 

3. Choose a Specific Shopping Day

Only you will know what day works best for you, so make sure you’re consistent and have a time planned out in your busy week for meal planning. That way you can schedule it right into your week and you won’t feel like meal planning takes a ton of extra time. 

4. Never Shop Without a List!

Shopping without a list can be detrimental to your whole plan. You’ll start forgetting what you need and you’ll find yourself buying things you don’t actually need… Just don’t do it!

Not to mention, you’ll run around the store like a chicken with your head cut off! Imagine the time you can save if you intentionally walk through the store, shopping quickly as you go through. Your list will keep you on track!

5. Start Prepping Food as Soon as You get Home From Grocery Shopping

Make sure to do your food prepping as soon as possible. If you keep putting it off it won’t get done. So make it a priority and schedule it into your day. Once your food is prepped, you’ll save so much time making your meals.

6. Cook in Bulk Whenever You Can

If you’re going to cook tacos and spaghetti in the same week, cook all the ground beef at once and then divide up the beef and season each one separately. You can also freeze pre-cooked taco meat and incorporate it into the following week’s plan. 

7. Freeze Leftovers for Another Meal

Most meals can last up to six months in the freezer so if you have extra food, put your leftovers in the freezer for a meal that can be easily cooked in the weeks to come.

Or if you want, double the recipe to make sure you have leftovers for easy to access freezer meals later! Talk about a time-saver!

8. Not Everything has to be Homemade

It’s ok to have your at-home-meals not completely homemade. Buy bottled spaghetti sauce, keep a frozen pizza in your freezer. Do what works best for you and also what works best for your family and taste buds!  

9. Be Flexible

Maybe you planned on Monday being meatless but when Monday rolls around, you don’t feel like it. That’s ok, have your Thai dinner that night and you meatless dinner later in the week.

Or maybe something came up and you never made it home and necessity required you to run out and grab something. That’s ok too! Just save your dinner for another night next week, or freeze it and keep it as a freezer meal for later in the month.

10. Don’t Let Your Food Supply Run Out

Whatever you do, don’t let all of your meals run out before you menu plan and shop again. Be careful to start your meal planning not long after you do your shopping.

That way when the time comes for you to replenish your supply of food, you’ll be ready. You’ll save a ton of time doing it this way! 

11. Have Some Emergency Meals on Hand

You never know what life has coming. So make sure to have some emergency meals just in case. This can include frozen meals, boxed macaroni or anything that can be thrown together in a pinch. 

To Save Time, Use the Meal Planning Binder

Last, but not least, meal planning does require organization. You have to plan out meals, make a grocery list, remember that there is extra ground beef in the freezer, etc. But no fear! I’ve put together The Meal Planning Binder to help you stay organized!

The 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, as well as a calendar, so you can keep track of what crazy things are going on during the week and more! 

So, don’t hesitate any longer! Quickly print out The Meal Planning Binder here and try out meal planning for yourself! You’ll be amazed at how much time meal planning can save you! 

How about you? Do you struggle with finding the time to plan your menu? What tips do you have to save yourself time when meal planning? Comment below? I’d love to hear! 

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:

 

Wanna start meal planning right away? Then don’t miss this FREE Meal Planning Binder Moini

 

Meal planning books to help with making a weekly menu.

21 {Quick and Easy} Tips to Meal Plan Quickly

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