Monday, September 26, 2011

Top 5 Meal Planning Tips

First let me say

But...It can be really tough coming up with great tasting healthy meals night after night. Add to that nightly homework, in first grade no less, witching hour meltdowns with little sister's nap strike, it's not the best dinner time recipe, for sure.

With a little pre and post shopping planning, it can be done, efficiently and with less hassle.  I use these simple steps to getting a great meal on the table with less stress.

  • #1 Sit down and plan the menu for the week.
I'm not reinventing the wheel. This is the number one, most important step. It's not something I look foward to, but...Once you get into the habit of writing out your menu, it's so much easier!
I used to find myself in the store E.V.E.R.Y night. It's such a time consumer, not to mention all the extra stuff you end up buying. Plan it out once a week, one shopping trip per week, save time and money!
  • #2 Make a master shopping list, try to organize it by aisle of your grocery store. 
I do shop at a couple different stores and have a section for both stores. I made an excel spreadsheet with every item I buy. It took me about a month to finalize this list,  adding items I forgot about. I now have the most comprehensive list, even Hubby can use it with out a snag.  The weekly menu is on the back  then just circle the items  needed from there. It took some work to create this but it saves me SO much time now that it's done! It's double sided (but I couldn't get *both* sides in the photo) and easy to use. I love it.
If someone can tell me how to add a printable to my post, I'd love to share. Something about a website that hosts my file???? But it would only be in order for my stores :(
  • #3 Wash all of your produce before putting them away, so they are ready to eat/ use. 
From apples to avocados, lettuce and mushrooms. I totally wash everything, just make sure they are dry before putting in the fridge. Strawberries? I rinse them really good, drip dry in a colander, rinse the plastic container, and set them out to dry like dishes in the strainer. They do not spoil any faster. Sure some produce has wax or other coatings to kelp them fresh longer, but fresh food doesn't stick around long enough to spoil, we eat it! As long as it's dry before refrigerating! I've never had a problem. As natural as rain.

  • #4 Plan a crock pot meal once a week. 
Give yourself a break! This works great Summer or
Winter since it doesn't heat up the kitchen.

  • #5Arrange meals by longest shelf life meal last, earliest first.
   This may sound odd, but absolutely necessary for me. I shop on Tuesday's and buy 7 days worth of meals. I like to eat poultry (or seafood, if I'm that lucky-Hubby refuses any food from the sea:( , while it is very fresh as many vegetables and red meat can withstand a bit of aging.

It takes getting used to and  a while to get in the habit.  I really appreciated this system because I used to just wander around the store. Picked up incomplete meals and had to keep going back to the store several times that week.

I have not even begun to incorporate coupons and weekly sales into my plan!

This is what works for me.
What tricks or tips do you use to to help with meal time?

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  1. Great tips! I've never thought of washing the produce beforehand but it makes so much sense!

  2. I love these tips! Thanks for sharing, it's nice to hear others time & money saving advice!

  3. I love your shopping list! Thank you for linking to Wicked Awesome Wednesday!

  4. Fabulous tips!! I dread grocery store days!!
    Thanks for linking up to Show & Share!!