Do you hate meal planning? I do! I don’t find it practical for me, and I don’t think it saves me money.
I don’t mind making menus, but I don’t like preparing for the whole week in advance. What if I change my mind? Since everyone says meal planning is the absolute best, I tried to find other ways to have a good dinner for me and my family without having to resort to traditional meal planning.
Our main meal of the day is dinner/supper, so that is usually the biggest stress for me. But I also need lunch for myself or else I get very cranky or spend a lot of money, both of which are not great options!
I love cooking, which helps, but I don’t find it easy to prepare or plan in a way that makes it worth it for me in terms of money or time. This is the system that works for me. It helps me save time and money on food for my family. It’s the meal planning for the people who hate meal planning.
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1. Go Grocery Shopping Before You Plan
This way, you can plan your meals around what you bought. First, buy items on sale and in season, and then start researching what you can cook. Buying items that look appealing and that are in season will make your cooking so much more joyful and appetizing.
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2. Make Building Blocks
Creating building blocks for meals will cut down on your food prep time and save you time. What I like to do is take a few hours on the weekend (or whatever day works for you) and create the building blocks of a few meals. I don’t need to decide in advance what dishes I will be making; I just prepare ingredients that I may need to use. Examples include shredded chicken, rice, black beans, dressings, etc.
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3. Why Does This Work Well?
There is always something to eat in the fridge! You always have part of a meal started, so all you need is a side or topping to make it into a full meal. You are also much less tempted to buy take-out when most of the work is already done.
You can always make dinner from scratch if you want and have energy. You are not committed to those items!
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4. Make Your Food Tempting
The problem with eating at home as opposed to eating or ordering takeout is that so often, the bought food tastes so much better than the macaroni you threw into the pot. With exciting restaurant food available, why would you eat plain pasta? The truth is you don’t have to. You can buy and even splurge on fun and yummy foods that will make your dishes delicious. Chances are that you will still save money, and you will probably end up being healthier as well.
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5. Make a Salad For Lunch
If you are constantly being tempted by those pricey salad bars at Whole Foods or a café near you, then buy some “fun” things to spice up your salad, like croutons, nuts, olives or sunflower seeds. The good thing is that those usually last, so it won’t go bad if you don’t eat it that week!
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6. Don’t Insist on Sticking to a Plan
Planned on making salmon and came home feeling like you’d rather eat something else? Don’t force yourself to stick to the plan. Instead, take the salmon and put it bag in the fridge for tomorrow, or quickly cook it and put it in a container as a building block. Then, you can use it as an extra in a sandwich or salad on a different day. Forcing yourself to eat food just because it was “on the meal plan” will make you frustrated and annoyed.
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7. Focus on Decent, not Fancy
As a working mother, I aim to get a decent supper on the table every night. I don’t always have time for a “fancy” home-cooked meal, but I still insist on cooking at home. We don’t buy takeout or unhealthy, quick, kids’ foods like chicken nuggets and hot dogs. Meal planning sometimes encourages grand ideas when you sit down to make the menu, but keep it simple, and everyone will be happy.
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8. Get a Rotation
I like to keep a list of quick dinner ideas that I know I can always make quickly. I try to make sure that the ingredients for these dinners are always in the house, and I have some of the basic building blocks already prepped at the beginning of the week. This way, when someone asks, “What’s for dinner?” I already have a few ideas that I can use, and the ingredients are ready to go.
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