5 Ways to Simplify Meal-Planning If you absolutely hate meal-planning, you’re not alone. Perhaps you’re frustrated because: you go to all the trouble and your store doesn’t have the ingredients you need you’re accommodating one or more special dietary needs at home you have picky eaters in your house you feel it simply takes up too much time you don’t know what to make you’re tired of the typical meals you’re putting on the dinner table each night Maybe it’s a combination of some of these frustrations. No matter what, the absolute best way to meal plan for someone who doesn’t like to meal plan is to: simplify the process. These are five of my favorite ways to simplify meal planning. 1. Plan for 5 days. When I’m getting ready to meal plan, I only plan for 5 dinners at a time. Why? Because it’s doable to do this, even during a busy week. On Day 6, we eat leftovers or something easy (tuna salad, pasta with chick peas, etc.) out of the pantry. On Day 7, we eat out (or in the case of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders) we get take out. I don’t meal- plan breakfasts or lunches…we stick to oatmeal or eggs for breakfast most days…and lunches are mostly salads or sandwiches made up of whatever is in the fridge. 2. Plan at least three meals you know how to make. Some of the problem with meal planning is that folks feel like they have to always make something brand new. While it’s fun to try out a new recipe now and then, three of your five meals should be ones that a) you already know how to make, b) have a small number of ingredients, c) you can prep very quickly, and d) you can make quick substitutions on-the-fly if your store is out of some ingredients you need. Try out a new recipe or two each week if you’d like. Have those recipes printed out and in your kitchen…ready for you when you’re ready for them. 3. Make at least one meal that EVERYONE can/will eat on Day 1 of your 5 days of meal planning…and make a lot of it. In doing so, if someone doesn’t like or can’t eat a meal that proceeds that, they can eat leftovers from the previous night. You also have the option of freezing a portion of a meal so you have another meal for next week. 4. Remember that you’re not running a restaurant. If you can accommodate someone in your house easily, like leaving the raisins out of a recipe or making half with cheese and half without, that’s fine. But be careful about being over-accommodating with picky eaters. I always have items like tuna, pasta, canned beans, rice cups that can be microwaved in a minute, etc. in my house. If someone absolutely doesn’t want what I’ve meal-planned on a particular night, I either whip up a quick substitute meal (with the emphasis on quick) or if I’m feeling over-extended and that person is able, they make it themselves. 5. Write up a “Favorite Meals” list. Grab a sheet of paper and begin jotting down meals you and your family love, as well as where to find the recipe (Pinterest, recipe book name and page, etc.) Try to come up with 21 meals…and choose meals from that list. If you’re feeling really ambitious, get all of those meals into a “Favorite Meals” binder (write them out or print them out) that you can access without any trouble whatsoever.
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5 Ways to Simplify Meal-Planning If you absolutely hate meal-planning, you’re not alone. Perhaps you’re frustrated because: you go to all the trouble and your store doesn’t have the ingredients you need you’re accommodating one or more special dietary needs at home you have picky eaters in your house you feel it simply takes up too much time you don’t know what to make you’re tired of the typical meals you’re putting on the dinner table each night Maybe it’s a combination of some of these frustrations. No matter what, the absolute best way to meal plan for someone who doesn’t like to meal plan is to: simplify the process. These are five of my favorite ways to simplify meal planning. 1. Plan for 5 days. When I’m getting ready to meal plan, I only plan for 5 dinners at a time. Why? Because it’s doable to do this, even during a busy week. On Day 6, we eat leftovers or something easy (tuna salad, pasta with chick peas, etc.) out of the pantry. On Day 7, we eat out (or in the case of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders) we get take out. I don’t meal-plan breakfasts or lunches…we stick to oatmeal or eggs for breakfast most days…and lunches are mostly salads or sandwiches made up of whatever is in the fridge. 2. Plan at least three meals you know how to make. Some of the problem with meal planning is that folks feel like they have to always make something brand new. While it’s fun to try out a new recipe now and then, three of your five meals should be ones that a) you already know how to make, b) have a small number of ingredients, c) you can prep very quickly, and d) you can make quick substitutions on-the-fly if your store is out of some ingredients you need. Try out a new recipe or two each week if you’d like. Have those recipes printed out and in your kitchen…ready for you when you’re ready for them. 3. Make at least one meal that EVERYONE can/will eat on Day 1 of your 5 days of meal planning…and make a lot of it. In doing so, if someone doesn’t like or can’t eat a meal that proceeds that, they can eat leftovers from the previous night. You also have the option of freezing a portion of a meal so you have another meal for next week. 4. Remember that you’re not running a restaurant. If you can accommodate someone in your house easily, like leaving the raisins out of a recipe or making half with cheese and half without, that’s fine. But be careful about being over-accommodating with picky eaters. I always have items like tuna, pasta, canned beans, rice cups that can be microwaved in a minute, etc. in my house. If someone absolutely doesn’t want what I’ve meal- planned on a particular night, I either whip up a quick substitute meal (with the emphasis on quick) or if I’m feeling over-extended and that person is able, they make it themselves. 5. Write up a “Favorite Meals” list.  Grab a sheet of paper and begin jotting down meals you and your family love, as well as where to find the recipe (Pinterest, recipe book name and page, etc.) Try to come up with 21 meals…and choose meals from that list. If you’re feeling really ambitious, get all of those meals into a “Favorite Meals” binder (write them out or print them out) that you can access without any trouble whatsoever.
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