It’s that time of year when I really need to step up my planning game. When time gets tight, I try to have a plan in place for dinner so that I’m not throwing it together at the last minute. You certainly don’t need a binder with tabs, pockets and color-coded pages (but totally could! ;)) to get organized with meal planning. An old fashioned pen and paper work great, or even typing it up on a computer is useful. Here are a couple tips for getting organized:
- Pinterest. I love Pinterest. Sometimes I’ll type an ingredient or two in the search field to find a recipe. Sometimes it’s a cooking technique and a food. I just got an AirFryer so I’ve been looking for recipes to experiment with this new cooking technique. Pinterest can be a bit overwhelming though. Every so often I’ll go through the recipes I already have saved and pick a few from there. I don’t find it necessary to buy recipes when this option, combined with a bit of your time, is certainly doable.
- Ask for requests. If you’re cooking for others, ask what they’re hungry for this week. You can be reminded of meals you haven’t had in awhile. My kids are really into cooking shows right now, so sometimes they’ll see something that they want to try. My daughter actually choose her breakfast this morning based on a cereal box. It was a Rice Krispy type cereal with strawberries in it and she (and then my other daughter) wanted hers to be just like the picture. And they liked it! Score!
- Make a list. I have a running list of different meal ideas to choose from. I keep this on my phone for easy access, but it could be anywhere. I do try to vary meals so if I see we haven’t had fajitas or chili in awhile, I add it to the next week’s menu.
- Freezer Meals. The freezer is a big part of meal planning for me. I have done batches of freezer meals you may find somewhere like Pinterest. You take a few hours and prep meals, store them in freezer safe bags until you’re ready to use them. I like these for crockpot type meals – once they’re prepped, it’s as easy as putting them in the crockpot and letting them simmer all day.
- Be flexible. Life happens and sometimes days don’t go as planned. We had a fundraiser dinner pop up at the last minute last week so I simply made a few changes and enjoyed the fact that someone else was making me dinner tonight. I also find that large restaurant meals can turn into at least 2 meals which is always an added bonus. On nights like spaghetti night, I’ll purposely cook extra pasta to have as leftovers.
- Switch up snack and dinner. When sports fall right at dinner time, we will eat an early dinner, giving food time to digest, knowing that an after-activity snack will be necessary. This prevents an evening of never-ending snacks. It also prevents me from having to cook a meal at 7:30/8:00 when I really want to put out the “Kitchen is Closed” sign.