Meal Planning Tips For Newbies

Jan 9, 2014 + , ,

One of the things I want to do better in the new year is meal planning. I must admit, I'm not great at it. I start off with good intentions... I go to the grocery store with a general idea of 2 or 3 meals I want to make during the week and buy the needed ingredients. But by mid-week, I find myself staring into an almost empty fridge at 5:35pm wondering what to cook for that night's dinner. Tell me I'm not the only one???

Here's a few changes I'm making to get meal planning on track.


1. Collect Meal Ideas

This is a list of the tried and true meal ideas that I know my family will eat and enjoy. I'd say 80% of our meals are captured on this list. (Click to zoom in if you want to see). I'll be printing out this list and taping it to our pantry door for easy reference and those nights I just don't know what to make.


2. Create a Meal Plan

The key to winning the meal planning battle is simple: write down what you want to cook. You can go old school and create a hand-written meal plan like this one:

Or use an online app. I have an ipad that I haven't used to its full potential so I'm going to try the high-tech route. I found the Pepperplate app which seems to have everything I need: ability to import recipes from various websites, drag and drop recipes into a meal planning calendar, and it can generate a shopping list I can access from my ipad or iphone. Winner! Let's hope I actually stick with it.

3. Take Stock

Before you can cook, you need to know what you have to cook with. This month, I'm focused on getting my kitchen in tip top shape. That means organizing the pantry, cleaning out the fridge, and discarding expired foods and accessories we just don't use. It also means stocking up on the basics and having essentials on hand to make a quick and easy meal. I started cleaning cabinets this weekend and its amazing how much more "in control" I already feel knowing exactly how many frozen chicken thighs I have!

4. Gather favourite recipes

I have favourite recipes stored all over the place: online at various recipe websites, on Pinterest, in my computer, handwritten on pieces of paper. I think having them all in one spot in the Pepperplate app will make it easier to cook. Then I won't be looking for that delicious Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe every time I want to make cupcakes!

So that's the plan anyway. We've been using the plan for almost a week and and a half and so far: one slow cooker meal made, three new recipes tried, and the fridge and freezer are looking empty because I'm actually using my food up! 

If you'd like to get meal planning, I've created some free printables for you. Click the buttons below to download blank versions of the files shown above.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/1wupj5pcaznis8f/Meal-ideas-blank.pdf

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hcpre1b6o4q2dgw/Weekly-meal-plan-blank.pdf

Do you meal plan? Any tips you want to pass on to a newbie? Or any favourite recipes to share? I'm always on the lookout for good slow cooker recipes.

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