The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning


Now that your kids are back in school and on their regular practice schedules again, the question of the 5 o’clock hour becomes, “What’s for dinner?” Between weekly grocery trips and speedy dinners, it is hard to throw in some variety, so you stick to the same old Taco Tuesday, Spaghetti Sunday and the list goes on. To combat boring dinners and hungry kids, here is Ryan Homes at Brunswick Crossing’s beginner’s guide to meal planning:

Take it slow and steady to win the dinner race. You need to go grocery shopping before you become Rachel Ray or Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen. Finding all of the ingredients for recipes can get a little pricey, so start by cutting coupons out from your local newspaper and printing them out from the market’s website. Base your dinners for that week around the bargains you found to save some dough, and if you find a better deal while out shopping than your coupon offers then take advantage!

Draft out your specials. Like restaurant chefs, you should draft out your dinners around the ingredients you have or just bought. If chicken was on sale, consider shifting Taco Tuesday to Fajita Friday or toss out the spaghetti recipe, and cook some homemade chicken parmesan.

Be a smart planner. Everyone loves a grand home cooked meal that reminds them of Thanksgiving and fall festival food, but life can get in the way of some prep time for delicious feasts at home. To avoid your food spoiling and accidentally messing up your recipe, plan your dinners around evening activities for that week. Save the pizza-making night for after soccer practice, and break out the Crock-Pot on a lazy Sunday. Tuesday is for leftovers and Dad kick starts the grill or deep fryer on weekends. Meal planning is all about finding a flow within your busy schedule.

Invest in cookbooks. As old-fashioned as this tip sounds, investing in cookbooks can go a long way. Whether you snag it from your grandma’s counter or purchase it straight off the shelves at your local bookstore, these guides are meant for meal planners. The best part is that there hundreds of cookbooks for hundreds of different niches. If your family wants to eat cleaner, find an organic or gluten-free handbook. If you want to take advantage of seasonal recipes, find cookbooks based on the time of year. There are as many cookbooks for grilling as there are for choosing vegetarian options, so feel free to explore!

Commit. Meal planning takes a lot of work, but it will make everything easier throughout the week. Plus, you will get the hang of it after a few practice rounds! If you need help remembering which dinner is for which evening, print out a chart to stick on the fridge. Tack your family’s schedule above it, so you know when it is a good night to prepare each meal. If you feel overwhelmed, do not be afraid to recycle meal plans. As long as you have the ingredients, you should be good to go.

Before you know it, you will be a seasoned veteran at meal planning for your family. Start by scouting out the best deals online and in your local paper then plan the dinners according to the ingredients you will buy. Chart out the best night to cook each meal based on your family’s availability, and you are ready for the week!