Last week I posted all about the benefits of meal planning. This week I wanted to let you all in on some of my favorite tips for getting that plan together and organized so you can reap the benefits for your own homes!
Meal planning has seriously been a lifesaver to me in so many ways (all of which I explained last week). But getting myself organized to plan my meals seemed like such a daunting task at first. I stressed about the amount of time it would take, keeping up with the desire to eat what was "planned" for that day, and the details of how to get it all done well.
I honestly had nothing to worry about once I started up. I love the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!" Not that meal planning was an elephant per se, but you get the picture. If you have a daunting task, the easiest way to start is simply just to start.
So here are some of my best tips!
Gather up a few of your favorite cookbooks
Simple enough! When you have some of your favorite cookbooks together, you're able to search through them and pick out some of your favorite foodie finds. Taking time to look through a bunch of your cookbooks can help you find recipes you never knew were in there. Maybe you want to try something exotic. Indian, Mexican, African even?...looking through your books can help you stumble upon some delicious finds!
Tab your cookbooks
This tip is super helpful during your first day of searching. Every time you find a new recipe that you either want to try or did try and fell head over heels for, place a sticky tab on that bad boy so you know where to find it again.
Write down page numbers as you organize your list
This was a, learn as you go tip, that I picked up quickly after my first week. I wrote the title of each delicious recipe down on my organizing sheet during the first week only to realize when that cook day came around, I had no idea where the recipe was located. So write those page numbers down to help dial down the stress.
Copy your ingredients as you go
I tend to start by writing down my plan for Monday and then jotting down each of the ingredients I need for that meal. Writing as you go helps you to stay organized and it makes sure you don't miss anything you may need for the recipe. Then I simply repeat for each day of the week.
Just because you wrote the meal down for Monday, doesn't mean you can't eat it on Wednesday
This was important for me to learn. If there is ever a day where I'm just not feeling what was planned, I can always swap it out for another day. These meal plans are not set in stone. They're suppose to be a helpful tool, not a hinderance. So have fun with it!
Always make too much
At first when I started cooking according to the recipes in my meal plan, I thought I was going to have to redo all of the ingredient amounts so I didn't have a ton of left over food each night. But I'm actually loving the left overs. It gives me something easy to grab in the morning for lunch as I'm running out the door and heading to work. Pop it in the microwave and I'm good to go!
Get input from the family
If you're cooking for more than just yourself, ask your family what it is they like as well. You don't have to be the only creative person in this journey. See what they enjoy, what meals are their favorite, and what they would like to eat less of. A quick question at the table can get most of your shopping list organized and they may even think of something you haven't.
Like I mentioned before, when you're looking through those yummy cookbooks, have fun with them. Try something you haven't tried before. Be adventurous! Cooking is suppose to be fun as well as nutritional so enjoy yourself along the journey!
I can not rave enough about how much I am hooked on meal planning and how incredibly helpful it has been for my family. It's making me love cooking more, find new spices I've never tried, and it stops me from cooking the same 4 meals week after week after week (which my family is happy about as well). I'm thrilled I started and I plan to keep it up!
Have you started weekly meal planning yet? What are some of your best tips for staying organized?
If you're interested in seeing what an actual weekly plan looks like, let me know in the comments below. I plan my entire week vegetarian style and I get constant questions about it. So if you have any, please let me know! I could even write a post about it in the future!