Easy Meal Planning For Beginners-Back To Basics

One of the biggest struggles for a homemaker is deciding what to make for dinner. In this post I hope to simplify the process of meal planning. There are many programs available to purchase that do the meal planning for you. I have never purchased one simply because I know that I won’t use it.

Find What Works For You

If you already know that a ready-made plan will work for you then great, do it. There are plenty to choose from and some are really customizable. ¬†You are your own person with unique desires and goals so don’t feel that you have to design your meal plans exactly like someone else.

Find Your Style

Do you like everything planned out perfectly? Or do you prefer to roll with the punches? I personally don’t work well with a strict schedule. I have written out meal plans for the week, done the grocery shopping for said plans then I don’t feel like chicken Parmesan on Tuesday, or my husband thinks we should order pizza on Friday and I had planned for spaghetti.

You may enjoy schedules, by all means if that works for you write meal plans for the week. But if that is not your style no worries! I actually never write meal plans, I do sometimes plan ahead though. Usually I just go grocery shopping, shop according to sales, seasonal availability etc. I don’t usually buy meat at the grocery store, I buy from a butcher or order in bulk from a farm.

Then I put together meal plans based on what I just purchased along with what I have in my freezer and pantry. In the morning I decide what I feel like cooking for supper and pull the meat out of the freezer.

How Many Meals?

Another thing to consider when planning is how many meals per week are you preparing? My children and I are home for three meals per day pretty much every day. So I try to make extra for supper so that we can have leftovers for lunch a couple times per week.

Are you home for dinner every night or do you get together with friends or family once or twice a week? Date night? Do you pack a lunch for work? Work from home? These are all things to consider when meal planning. Breakfast at home, or drive through on your way to work?

Manage Expectations

You may have never meal planned before and are trying to meet a goal; weight loss, healthier meals, budgetary reasons etc. Start with baby steps, you do not need to change everything on day 1. Consider your family members, their likes and dislikes. My children will not eat anything with beans in it. Doesn’t matter to them that beans are a filling budget friendly food item. So obviously I don’t buy beans.

I would much prefer that my family didn’t eat breakfast cereal, I don’t think it has much nutritional value. We are making progress in this area and we haven’t had cereal in the house for over a month. But honestly just do your best and choose your battles.

Is your goal to eat more vegetables? Plan to make two vegetable dishes for supper. Choose one family favourite that you know everyone will enjoy and try one new vegetable or method of cooking. Or have one hot vegetable dish and a salad. You may’re trying to limit processed food and you currently live on hamburger helper there are recipes for homemade hamburger helper that you can make instead.

Keep It Simple

You may not be a confident or experienced cook there are so many easy meals to get you started. There are some really great fast meals that are cooked quickly in a skillet. Like Korean beef with a side of rice. Bone in skin on chicken breasts or thighs drizzled with olive oil sprinkle some salt and pepper on along with some Italian seasoning or garlic and onion powder. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes, less if it’s boneless.

When making something that is a little more time-consuming like lasagna make 2 and freeze 1. You can also choose theme nights to help with your planning. Fun food Friday, pasta Tuesday, soup and sandwich Saturday or whatever it is that you and your family will enjoy.

If all of this overwhelms you there are now several services that offer meal kits delivered to your door. They come with recipes and ingredients. I have never tried them so I can’t give any specific recommendations.

Or if you live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area I can recommend a personal chef who does the grocery shopping and meal prepping for you. Nicole Puffer and Meals Without Madness will take all the stress out of meal planning and prepping. She is a fabulous chef with a wealth of knowledge regarding nutrition. You can find her on Facebook at Meals Without Madness.

Putting It All Together

Now that you have determined your style of meal planning you can make a plan. You may decide on purchasing ready-made plans you can start searching for where to purchase them. You may decide to go for a delivery kit go and set that up. You may want to write your own plans then grab yourself a notebook or scrap paper and start writing out some family favourite meals.

Next you’ll need to inventory your freezer and pantry before you make a grocery list. You can write your menu out on a printable meal plan (there are several on pinterest) or you can use a chalk board or even just a notebook. Whatever you prefer as long as it works for you. I don’t usually write it down I just have a good idea of what I have available and what I can make with what I have.

When planning keep in mind your schedule, don’t plan a brand new recipe or something complicated when you won’t have enough time. You’ll only end up stressed out and you will give up. Slow cookers can be a brilliant life saver for busy days. Or a quick to prepare skillet meal. Another option for busy days is something you pre-prepared and stored in the freezer. I often batch cook chicken and rice and store it in ready to serve family sized portions. When I need it for a quick meal I just defrost it and make a quick sauce and make chicken fried rice. It’s easy and delicious and my family loves it.

You may have tips or tricks that work for you I’d love to hear them! Let’s work together to make this homemaking gig more fun and productive. Feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to provide answers. Meal planning is such a huge part of homemaking and I really want to reduce or eliminate the stress that often comes with it.

I don’t want to waste any more of your precious time so if you need more help I can try to answer questions in a follow up post. Take care for now.

Cheers,

Lori

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