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Simplify Your Meal Planning Routine

Source: Simple Organized Living

The fall months are some of the busiest months for our family — and I suspect for many other families as well. With the start-up of another school year, more evening commitments, shorter days, and the upcoming holiday season; it’s easy to put meal planning on the back burner {pun intended!}.

However, these busy months are some of the most important months to create and utilize a meal plan… because it will save you so much time and stress!

If you are struggling to get back into your meal-planning routine, here are a few simple ideas that just might help:

1. Create daily “themes” for your meals.

For some reason, it is SO much easier for me to create a meal plan if I have a “theme” for each night of the week.  For example; our daily themes are:

MONDAYS: Mexican or Italian

TUESDAYS: Casserole


THURSDAYS: Meat {pork chops, chicken, ribs, burgers, brats, steak, meatloaf}

FRIDAYS: Mexican or Italian {whatever we didn’t have on Monday}

SATURDAYS: Soup, salad, sandwiches, or leftovers

There are just so many recipes out there to choose from that if I know I’m only looking for “Italian recipes” or “breakfast recipes”  it helps me narrow down the possibilities.

Of course, there are still hundreds Italian and breakfast recipes out there, so we definitely don’t eat the same thing over and over again, but these daily themes have helped me to create better, more efficient meal plans each week.

2. Re-use meal plans.

I know people who plan one months worth of meals and then reuse that exact same meal plan month after month. Talk about a time-saver! I personally don’t go to that extreme, but I do re-use weekly meal plans — especially if we really liked all the recipes.

You can do this simply with Plan to Eat by saving and loading your favorite meal plans!

3. Make 2 meals at a time.

If I’m making soup, stew, casserols, or pasta dishes, I’ll save myself a bunch of time {and dirty dishes} by making a double batch and freezing half of it for a few weeks down the road.

Obviously, this won’t work with every meal you make, but I try make double batches of food at least once or twice a week. This means I always have a pretty good selection of meals in the freezer, and boy do they come in handy for busy days when time gets away from me!

Another way to save time is by making two different meals at the same time. For example, if you have two chicken meals planned in one week, cook up all the chicken at one time and then portion it out for the two different meals. Or make your meal for tonight, and while it’s baking in the oven, get a head start on some of the prep work for tomorrow’s meal.

4. Plan foods that can be packed for lunch the next day.

I’m not a huge fan of packing lunches… yet we do it almost every day! I try to get as creative as I can, but there are only so many ways you can make a sandwich “fun”.

So whenever we can, we always try to pack leftovers in our lunches. However, in order to do this, you have to plan ahead and think what recipes would also make good lunches.

Some of our favorites leftovers are:  meat to put on salads, pizza, casseroles and soups {we have access to a microwave}, baked sandwiches or paninis, etc.  We always pack our lunches as we’re cleaning up dinner, so packing leftovers is just as easy as making a sandwich.

5. Have a back-up plan for busy nights.

Even though I always look at our weekly schedules BEFORE I plan out our meals, there are still nights that get busier than I planned. For those nights, I reserve the right to have leftovers, meals from the freezer, canned soup, grilled cheese, cereal, or even take-out.

I suppose even the most organized meal plans need a back-up plan!

So as you enter this extremely busy time of year, utilize a few of these simple tips to keep your meal planning on track. Your family and your sanity will thank you!

How do you simplify your meal planning routine?

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