how to build a weekly meal plan

one of the things that has got me through this eternal winter as we hide out from cold and flu season is cooking at home. joe and i cook at home almost every night and there are a few tips and tricks to keep it seamless and most important on time. i can’t eat at 9pm i’m usually in bed by then.

it’s funny i remember the days where joe and i would be at steak and shake at midnight taking a study break. now it’s like oh dear it’s 8:30 we should get ready for bed. is this what happens in your 30s? or just people in their 30’s who have kids? regardless i’m an early to bed early to rise. even before otto i was up and at it by 6am.

so anyway meal planning and cooking dinner. i’ve had a lot of questions on how we do it. over the years i’ve discovered a few simple tricks that keep it seamless and fast.

1. dedicate one hour to plan.
i know it’s difficult to find an hour during the week but it seriously helps set the tone for the rest of the week. i usually pick a sunday afternoon. i gather my supplies and make it as relaxing as possible. turn on some music, tv or even sit in the quiet. have a class of wine or cup of coffee and dedicate this hour to myself and preparing for the week.

2. keep all my “meal planning supplies in one place.
it makes things so less stressful if you keep your supplies together. by supplies i pick 2 – 3 sources (magazines, books etc to cook from) my meal planning calendar, pen and phone for my calendar. the meal planning pad of paper is nice to have because it’s pretty and just kind of lays everything out for you.

3. pick 2 -3 sources and plan your week from them.
i find that if i pick a few magazines or book the ingredients correlate and you buy less groceries. for example if you pick a june issue of cooking light magazine chances are a lot of the recipes will call for similar ingredients. this will mean a lower grocery bill.

4. plan according to your week.
i make notes of appts and where i’ll be and plan my meals accordingly. if i’m going to be home all day and an start dinner at 5 i’ll pick a recipe that requires more time. if we have an all day doctor appointment i’ll pick something i can preassemble, pre cook or even toss in a slow cooker all day. that way there is minimal prep time when i get home and i can relax and just eat dinner.

5. organize your list.
now i use third party grocery shoppers like curbside pickup or fastlane who do the shopping for you and you just drive up and they load your car and go. but if you don’t have any stores with those features it is so helpful to organize your list by vegetables, dairy, meat etc. then you go shop section by section. before i shop i go to my kitchen and cross off everything that i already have.

6. place your meal plan where you can see it and check it before bed.
i have a handy clip on a stand where i place my list. i usually check it while i’m finishing dinner at night to see what i have to do for tommorrow. do i have to pull meat out of the freezer? does anything need to marinate for an extended period of time? do all these things while you are still working on the dinner for that night. one mess to clean up.

i hope these tips have helped you a bit. it makes the week night enjoyable and gets dinner on the table. don’t get me wrong some nights i forget it and still order a pizza but i just make that meal at some point over the weekend. (i only meal plan for monday – friday) we usually end up staying home one or two nights over the weekend and eat it then. am i missing anything? what are your tips and tricks for getting dinner on the table?

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