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Meal Planning 101


When I first looked at meal planning, the first thing that came to mind was that this was something that bored housewives did, along with scrapbooking and reading Stephanie Meyer novels. It wasn’t until I came home after a particularly long day that I realized how useful meal planning could be.

On that long day, I was asked a simple question. It is actually the most dreaded question in my house, but it is inevitable that at least once in a while someone will ask, “What do you want for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast)?” When you plan your meals in advance, you avoid the potential standoff that the question leads to, and you reap other rewards as well.

Meal Planning Makes You Psychic

Meal planners have the gift of precognition in that they know what they are going to need before they need it (at least when it comes to meals). Armed with this knowledge it is easy for them to save money on their grocery bill by planning their upcoming meals around sales and coupons. It’s also easier to make last-minute menu changes when you already know what you will be eating for the rest of the week.

Meal Planning Makes You a Waste Watcher

Meal planning is a useful tool when it comes to reducing food waste as well. By planning your menu ahead of time and consolidating your shopping, you are more aware of what you have on hand and can more easily incorporate it into upcoming menus. A couple of extra lemons become lemon rosemary chicken, or a leftover partial jar of marinara becomes sloppy Joes. If waste drives you crazy like it does me, then meal planning is pure gold.

Meal Planning Helps You Relax

It’s true. People who have their menus planned in advance don’t have to worry about what to make for dinner, how long it will take, or whether or not they have all of the necessary ingredients on hand. Many meal planners take it a step further by preparing make-ahead meals so that all of the hard work is done in advance. There’s nothing easier than sliding a rich, made-from scratch lasagna in the oven at the end of a chaotic day.

Meal Planning is Easy

The toughest part about meal planning is getting started. Once you have done it a couple of times, you will see just how easy it is and you’ll be hooked for life.  Here’s the best way to get started meal planning right now:

1. Make a list of all your favorite meals. You can do this by setting up a folder on your computer / tablet, or you can put together a three-ring binder. In your planner, collect the recipes for all of the meals on your list. This will not only keep the go-to recipes within easy reach, it will keep you from having to remember all of the ingredients.

2. Plan your meals for next week. Again, you may choose to do this digitally or on paper, but the important thing is that you put your plan down somewhere other than your own memory.  It is during this phase of meal planning that you should consult sales ads to find out what is the best bargain. If boneless chicken breasts are on sale, for instance, you might change one or more of your menu items now to make use of the price difference.

3. Make a shopping list for the week.  If you are a coupon fan, now’s the time to start digging through your stash. Match the coupons to items that are on your list, but avoid the temptation to add items to your shopping list only because you have a coupon for them, unless the deal is something really extraordinary.

I created this downloadable meal planning worksheet that will make your life a lot easier:

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