Do you write meal plans? Do you follow your meal plans? Are you at the grocery store to get ingredients, but you forgot what is on your meal plan? Do you know what the meal is, but you are out shopping and don’t have the ingredients on your list? So you opt for a meal your family is tired of? Or worse yet, you hit the drive thru?
Meal planning makes life so much easier. The goal of meal planning is to save you time, money and stress. The problem is that meal planning only works if you actually follow the plan. If you find that you meal plan, but you don’t actually make the meal, that’s a problem. Here are a few simple tricks to make sure you follow through on your meal plans.
Write Your Meal Plan At Least A Week In Advance
One of the best ways to stick to a meal plan is to write it out at least a week in advance. In our house, I print out our family’s schedule three weeks in advance using a family calendar, but you can also use a simple weekly meal planner. You can sign up for mine at the bottom of this post. It goes on our refrigerator and everyone can see it. Do we always stick to our meal plan 100%? No, we don’t, but my husband and I hardly ever fight about what is for dinner anymore. Before I started meal planning regularly, my husband and I either couldn’t agree on dinner or found ourselves scrambling to throw a meal together at the last minute. Neither of those makes for a good dinner.
Related Post: Super Simple Family Calendar
Digitize Your Meal Plan on Your Smart Phone
I am a paper and pen loving girl and I still post our family calendar with our meal plan on the refrigerator. What can I say, I am a visual person. However, I also now put our meal plan in my smart phone. When you put your family meal plan in your smart phone, you can look it up anywhere. Most importantly, you can check it when you are in the grocery store. If you know what you are having for dinner you can pick up the ingredients when you are out. If you don’t digitize your plan then you only have it on your calendar at home.
I digitize our family calendar and our meals using the Cozi app. Here are all the reasons I love this app.
1. The interface is simple and easy to use.
2. I like that I can share the app with my husband.
3. It is easy to mark who is involved in each appointment and add notes.
4. You can have a daily agenda emailed to yourself everyday.
To add my meals in Cozi, I created an appointment that repeats on my calendar every day that says D. Once I have my meals planned, I go back and edit that appointment for each day to reflect what we will be having for dinner. When I get my agenda each morning from Cozi, it always tells me what is for dinner. It’s so simple and easy to do. I often open Cozi when I am at the grocery store to see what I planned for dinner that week. Then and want to make sure I have all the ingredients for our meals the next couple of days. This is where it becomes important to digitize your recipes.
Digitize Your Recipes
Digitizing your recipes may seem overwhelming and you would be right. However, having your recipes digitized is a game changer for meal planning. The reason is that you always have the list of ingredients in the recipes you are making available to you on your smart phone when you are out shopping. You can also look up ingredients quickly. In the past, the reason many of my family’s well intentioned meal plans never got made is because we went shopping and forgot what ingredients we actually needed. If you use many of the same meals over and over, it just makes sense to digitize them. When you first start out digitizing your recipes, digitize only the ones that you use regularly. When you finish digitizing those, then move on to recipes you use less.
Use a Recipe App
When you use the right recipe app, you will be able to find any recipe you need in no time. It is also super easy to add new recipes that you find online into the app.
To keep from getting overwhelmed by the idea of digitizing all your favorite recipes old and new, break the process down. I would start by adding a few recipes a week to your app. Start only with recipes you use often or will be using in your upcoming recipe plan and move forward from there.
After a ton of research, I picked the recipe app Paprika to store all our recipes. I love it for the following reasons.
- I can easily search for a recipe.
- It can sync across devices so my husband can also access our recipes.
- It is easy to organize your recipes
- Paprika makes it super simple to download new recipes I find online.
- The interface is very user friendly.
- I can use the program on my computer or on a mobile device.
Have Your Meal Plan Ingredients on Hand
The next step is to make sure you actually have all the ingredients at your home a few days before a meal will be made. You do this by taking a few minutes to check your refrigerator/freezer and pantry to be sure you have the ingredients. If you don’t have them, pull up the recipe and make a list of all the items you will need for that weeks meal plan. I use the Microsoft’s To Do for this task. You can use Cozi for this, but I love how simple To Do is for creating and sharing lists.
Prep Your Meal
The final step in making sure your family meal plans get made is to prep ingredients ahead of time. If you can, cut your fruits or vegetables in advance. You can also measure non-perishable meal plan ingredients out and set them aside. Most importantly, if your meal plan includes a meat product that you have frozen. Defrost it. There is nothing worse than realizing an hour before you have to make a meal that it is frozen solid. If you can remind yourself to defrost meat the day before, chance are much higher your meal will get made. If you are bad at remembering to do this, then make a note in your paper or digital planner.
Meal planning is not easy. It is tough to decide on meals and it can be even harder to make meals get made when you are a busy family. These 5 tips are meant to help you solve the biggest problems that cause you to fail at meal planning. By eliminating these problems you can successfully meal plan. You can be organized, save your time and money. Most of all you can eliminate the stress of always figuring out what’s for dinner.