But how to get started? I tried and foundered several times before developing a system that worked for me. In the past I have kept my meal plan on laminated sheets in a binder (so I could wipe it off each week), in a spreadsheet on my computer complete with links to the recipes online (a good system, not really sure why I stopped it- if you're a little tech savvy I would recommend this one), and on worksheets I made and filled out each week. Now I do this:
You don't have to plan this in depth, though. Start small and gradually add to and adapt a system so it works for you. Here are some simple tips and steps to take to get started meal planning.
- Make a list of meals you make regularly- meals that you like to make, your family likes to eat, and that you usually can make with things you have on hand. Brainstorm as many as you can and then keep the list handy so you can add to it when you think of more.
- Start with dinners only- Dinner is usually the most problematic meal for families, and the single meal you can benefit most from planning.
- Not a fan of scheduling things and want to maintain some spontaneity? Just make a list of seven meals (or six if you want to include a night out or a pizza night), not dated, and post it in a prominent place in your kitchen. Then you have a list of meals to base a grocery list on, and when meal time rolls around you simply have to pick the meal you want to make that particular day.
- Set aside a specific time each week to do this planning. Give it a fancy name if you need to (one woman whose blog I read calls it her "planning retreat"). Use it as an excuse to leave the kids home alone with dad one night a week while you go out for coffee and meal planning. I always wanted to do this with a friend, so we could simultaneously chat and de-stress a little while sharing recipes and getting something accomplished, but we never got it arranged. Personally, I usually start meal planning during nap time and finish up and make my grocery list after going to bed. Now that I am using the Paprika app on my ipad (they have an iphone version as well) meal planning is super simple and takes me far less time. There are computer programs available for both meal planning and recipe storage as well that you may find beneficial.