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We’re all familiar with the “6 o’clock scramble,” right? As in, “what’s for dinner?” Yes, that is quite a dreaded question in many households.
Day in and day out, dinner can become quite stressful as you either race to the store to pick up ingredients, peruse your pantry to try and throw something together, or call the local pizza place and opt for delivery. It can be so hard coming up with new, exciting ideas for dinner that are simple to prepare and quick to make it to the table.
15 Tips for Weekly Menu Planning
Here are 15 tips for a better weekly menu planning experience.
1.) Research Recipes
So many cooks suffer from a cooking rut. As in, they find themselves cooking the same dishes week after week. To avoid this rut, save recipes on Pinterest, research via Google, create a recipe binder full of recipes pulled from cooking magazines, flip through cookbooks and find simple recipes that you will love, etc. There are so many resources available that can help you change up your cooking routine. On Saturday or Sunday morning, sit down with your favorite food resource and start compiling recipes that you want to try that upcoming week.
2.) Poll Your Family
Thinking about recipes on your own can be stressful. Ask your family members what they have been craving lately. Or, ask them what they want to try that upcoming week. Ask for help from your family members. You’re to get some fresh perspectives.
3.) Create a Calendar
Whether you print a calendar, use a calendar from the store, or use a Google calendar, make sure you find recipes that you love and add them to different days of the upcoming week. If you use a printed calendar, post the calendar somewhere in your home so that family members can manage their expectations. Plus, you can avoid the question, “What’s for dinner?”
4.) Focus on the Season
What’s seasonal? It’s always best to cook meals with ingredients that are fresh, seasonal, and full of flavor. Also, be sure to check the weather. If you pick grilled recipes, make sure it’s not supposed to rain on those menu days. If the weather is going to be hot, you might want to avoid preparing a hot soup or chili. If the weather is cold, you might want to add some cold weather menu items to your weekly meal plan. Are the kids in school with a lot of after-school activities? If so, then add some slow cooker menu items to your weekly meal plan.
5.) Use a Planning Program
I recently came across a great program that can help you create a meal plan. Have you ever heard of PlateJoy? PlateJoy includes a special menu created just for you with input from their unique personalization quiz, on-demand menus of personalized meals tailored to your preferences, customized recipes, shopping lists, and full usage of their digital pantry feature. Weight loss, gaining more energy, and feeling amazing is offered at no extra charge.
PlateJoy subscriptions come in 6-month and 12-month packages, beginning at $8/month. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options are available and all courses are included in our 6- and 12-month plans. PlateJoy currently offers the following plans: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo (Low Carb), No Red Meat, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Vegan, Clean Eating, Kosher, Low Fat, Prediabetes, and others. You can switch up your selections before creating each menu.
Simply do the following:
- Get an account.
- Take their quiz (you can customize the diet, meal type, portion sizes, ingredient list, etc.).
- Approve the menu.
- Receive your shopping list and recipes from PlateJoy.
- Pick up the ingredients at your local store or have them delivered to your home.
- Prepare your meal.
Their Digital Pantry remembers what non-perishable items you have remaining, and will remember it so you can use the leftovers in future PlateJoy meals! How awesome is that?!
To get started with PlateJoy, click here.
6.) Pick a Shopping Day
Instead of making countless trips to the grocery store throughout the week, sit down one morning, write out your ingredients from your weekly menu plan, and head to the grocery store to purchase all of the ingredients in one fell swoop. You’ll enjoy the freedom you will experience when you have a fully stocked pantry and freezer as you prepare to tackle your weekly meal plan.
7.) Keep a Stocked Pantry
I strongly believe in having a stocked pantry. Yesterday, my husband asked me, “Can you throw lunch together quikcly?” My answer was, “Yes.” Recently, I’ve started to realize the importance and freedom of having a stocked pantry. When we don’t have time to go to the store or schedules become a bit funky and we find that we can’t eat dinner together, it’s always nice to turn to the pantry and refrigerator to whip up a tasty dinner. Here are 10 of my favorite kitchen staples.
8.) Keep a Stocked Freezer
Many people are into the “30 days of freezer cooking.” I think that’s awesome. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve contemplated trying it. Think about it: You spend a few hours one day preparing 30 meals that go straight into the freezer. Then, all you have to do is pop the meal into the oven or slow cooker and you’ll have 30 straight days of meals already prepared and ready to enjoy within minutes. Genius.
9.) Include Leftovers
Some people love leftovers. Some people loathe leftovers. One thing is certain: there are some foods that taste better the next day. For example, soup and chili. Make big batches of each to enjoy throughout the week. Or, freeze the leftovers and add those menu items to future weekly meal plans.
10.) Find Staple Recipes
Figure out what your family loves to eat and determine at least three recipes that can become family staples. These staples should be easy to prepare and only require a few ingredients. Always make sure you have those ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator so that you can throw together the recipe in minutes.
11.) Pick Quick Recipes
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few good ingredients, you can have a dinner prepared in no time. Research recipes that take 15-30 minutes. If you’re feeling adventurous or want to expand your culinary wings a bit, research recipes that take 45 minutes or so. Life is busy. Thankfully, there are recipes that are quick to prepare and enjoyable to the palate.
12.) Reduce Food Waste
I’ve always been a firm believer that food doesn’t have to be complicated to taste good. With just a few ingredients, you can have a meal that tastes amazing and has people asking for more. I shy away from ingredient lists that are long and/or include ingredients that I will never use again (unless I make the same recipe). To me, those recipes are wasteful. If you use good, quality ingredients, the few that you do use in your recipe will make the end result a showstopper.
13.) Collaborate With Friends
If you’re stuck on trying to find new recipes, ask your friends what they love to serve for dinner. Or, go out for coffee with friends and create weekly meal plans together. Better yet, if you don’t have time for coffee, create a shared Google calendar with your friends and create a joint meal plan together.
14.) Keep a Meal Journal
Be sure to jot down what recipes your family loves and dislikes. Keeping a meal journal will help you find your staple recipes that you should add to your weekly meal plans.
15.) Don’t Overplan
That’s right. Life happens. Don’t overplan your weekly meal plan. Leave room for days where you need to get takeout. Or, when the cravings hit, it’s always nice to satisfy the craving instead of forcing yourself to stick to the plan for that day.
What’s your favorite weekly menu planning tip?
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links.