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4 Questions to Ask Before Meal Planning

Last week I was creating my meal plan, and when I looked at my calendar I was surprised there wasn’t much happening that needed to be planned around. For a moment I was a bit stuck with how to start planning because my default is to look at my schedule and then find recipes that fit what we have going on. We don’t have an overly full schedule, but some weeks creating a meal plan feels like a game of Tetris, and being prepared for busy nights with leftovers or a crockpot meal provides so much stress relief!

Planning around events and activities is one of the most common ways to meal plan and is the method we recommend for new planners because it’s straightforward and simple. But if you’re in a season of life where you don’t need to plan according to your schedule or you simply want to mix things up a bit, I have some alternative ways to get started with your meal plan. 

When you go to create your meal plan, instead of asking “what do we have going on this week?”, ask one of these four questions:

over the shoulder view of woman meal planning with a planner and her phone. Glasses in hand

1. What do I need to use up?

Is there a half head of cabbage in your crisper? Or some beans in the pantry that have been collecting dust for a while? You don’t need to do an entire kitchen clean out to use up some of the extra food you have hanging around the house. Take a quick inventory of what needs to be eaten or used up and then use the filters in Plan to Eat to find a relevant recipe! You’ll reduce your food waste, save some money at the store, and incrementally clean out your fridge and pantry. 

2. Am I in a planning rut? How can I change it up?

Using the same recipes each week is a great way to streamline your meal planning and take the guesswork out of what to eat. But it can also lead to feeling bored and uninspired by what you’re cooking. 

If you feel disappointed by the prospect of repeating the same meals again, it’s time to change it up! Getting unstuck from a rut doesn’t mean you need to change every recipe on your plan, there might be some meals that continue to work perfectly for your situation. I like to start by switching out one or two recipes for the week ahead and my swap is usually a well-known recipe, but I haven’t planned it in a while. 

If you’re drawing a blank on what to add to your meal plan, ask a friend what they’ve been loving lately! There’s a higher chance of enjoying a recipe when it’s recommended by a friend if you have a similar taste in food.

3. What’s the weather like this week?

It was warm in Colorado this February and I didn’t do a great job of matching my meal plan to the springy weather outside. One night I made a chicken pot pie and while it was yummy, my husband commented that it was more of a cold-weather recipe. 

Paying attention to the weather can help make sure you’re in the mood for a recipe when that night comes around. Warm days call for crisp salads or burgers on the grill, and chilly days warrant a hearty soup or something spicy. When you start your meal plan, check your weather app and make a mental note of what the week looks like overall. Spring can be especially sporadic, so you might get a good variety of meals in one week!

4. What did or didn’t work in my meal plan last week?

This question can actually help you incorporate the above three, you may look back and realize you wasted a lot of food last week and need to do an inventory. Or you’re deep in a meal planning rut of reusing the same ole recipes over and over and it’s time to switch things up. Or you planned chicken pot pie on a warm Spring day because you didn’t look at the forecast!

In Plan to Eat, you can scroll back through your previous meal plans and quickly consider what worked or what didn’t, so you can create this week’s plan with confidence and clarity. 

However you like to meal plan, Plan to Eat can help you do it better! Whether you like to plan around your schedule, look at the weather, or eat lots of leftovers, you can accomplish your meal planning quickly and efficiently. 
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