INSIDE : Stop stressing about what to fix for dinner each night and check out my seven easy Tips for Planning Weeknight Meals! You can thank me later.
This post may contain affiliate links. See full disclosure here.
This post has been updated since it’s original February 2018 publish date.
Has this happened to you before? You are chatting with your girlfriends and someone brings up the grocery store. Everyone rolls their eyes and conversation turns to the dreaded daily meal making task, the same ole recipes and how we go to the grocery multiple times a week! I just had that conversation with two friends last week. Today I am sharing my SEVEN Tips for Planning Weeknight Meals because I have a meal planning routine that has always worked well for me.
7 Tips for Planning Weeknight Meals :
1. Get out your meal scheduling supplies.
There are so many ways to meal plan. Some have binders and post-it notes and others simply grab a scrap piece of paper to write their menu out on.
Personally, I like seeing what we are eating each night in an easy to view spot. So for about 10 years now I used a dry erase board that I write out the weekly menu. I used to have a framed dry erase board, but more recently I’ve moved to a simple square chalkboard. It hangs in my kitchen so I can see what we are having to eat that week.
So the first thing I do when it’s time to plan out meals for the week is grab my cell phone, a piece of chalk, a chalkboard eraser and head to the kitchen where my chalkboard is located. How fun are these colorful chalkboard pencils.
2. Look at your calendar.
I can not tell you how much time it has saved me each week to simply pull out the calendar to see what we have going on that week before I start planning meals. I can plan all the dinners in the world, but if we have school events or dinner dates with friends – then meals start getting pushed back and before you know it… I’m throwing out food that has gone bad. LITERALLY there is nothing that frustrates me more than throwing away food.
I only plan meals for a week at a time because it feels like a manageable amount of time to commit to our weekly evening plans. Plus, fresh food + meats will keep for at least a week.
Also, depending on the weekly events, I will plan for easier crock pot type meals or if I have more time, I can spend more effort making something delicious from scratch.
WILD MUSHROOM PIZZA recipe
3. Know and embrace your cooking skills and time commitment.
Not everyone enjoys cooking an elaborate meal and that is okay (I have recently become obsessed with all meals from Foodie Crush). But even if you do have amazing cooking skills, you may be in a season of life that you just have no spare moments beyond making spaghetti 3x a week.
I feel like my kids are just old enough now that I can actually make a meal and not be rushing around cooking + entertaining them, which helps a LOT. Planning for your weekly meals doesn’t have to mean fancy gourmet food, but if you are honest with your time and skill level, it will be helpful in executing a do-able weeknight meal.
4. Look at meals in blocks of weeks, not nights.
This simple tweak has been a game changer for my meal planning! I used to pick all the meals fresh each week, after week, after week and it took forever.
Now, I simply write down what my weekly meals are each and every single week. I keep a running list in my Notes app on my phone to do this. Then, when I sit down to plan my meals, I am looking at 30+ weeks of meals that we have had.
Sure, I tweak them a bit here and there but it is so much easier to pick an entire week of meals at once and change out one or two dinners… as opposed to picking 5-7 meals each week.
I’ve also come up with a printable to help if you are more of a paper person. I have a weekly dinner meal sheet and then a 3 month dinner worksheet. Sign up for my newsletter and get your free copy to download and print endlessly!
> > SIGN UP for the
Delineate Your Dwelling NEWSLETTER to get access to my ENTIRE DYD Printable Library in addition to my meal planning charts! < <
Already a DYD Newsletter Insider? Click on over here to access the printables library using the password found at the bottom of any email I’ve sent you.
5. Get organized and put all your recipes in one place.
This can really make your meal planning a make or break event. I used to have a binder with clear sheet protectors that were filled with all my recipes organized alphabetically organized. I LOVED that system for years.
I would find new recipes from Pinterest or from a friend, give the recipe a try and IF I liked the meal, THEN I would print it off in a 3×5 size and include it in my binder. I then was able to flip through the binder, knowing that every single recipe in there my family liked and enjoyed.
However, for the last 5+ years I have been using the app Paprika on my phone to store all my recipes (I just noticed it’s now a paid app. Bummer but honestly 100% worth it in my opinion). I actually love it so much more than my binder method now. When getting started with it, there is some initial setup time as you will have to input your recipes that were passed down in the family and on paper.
But, one of the many things I love about Paprika is the ease of adding new online recipes! Wherever I am on the internet, I can simply copy the url of a recipe blog post, open Paprika and immediately it recognizes there is a copied link and will ask if you would like to turn it into a recipe card. It pulls the entire recipe, direction and ingredients for you. In about 5 seconds, I can have the entire recipe added to my digital “recipe box”.
You can also create grocery lists from Paprika and they can be added to your iPhone reminders list. It’s so convenient and makes sharing recipes a breeze with it’s simple “share this recipe” button. It emails the recipe in a clean, easy to read fashion. I seriously REALLY REALLY love Paprika.
6. Plan your method of getting your food.
I have recently become an enormous fan of Instacart, although I know there are many grocery stores that have a similar services, too. Basically when I am making my meal plans and writing them on my chalkboard, I have my laptop right beside me and am adding the ingredients right on the screen to my “cart”.
With Instacart, you can select from numerous nearby grocery stores and have them delivered right to your home in about 2 hours time. There are also great curbside grocery options that allow you to pull up to the assigned parking area, call the number and within a few moments the groceries are being put in your vehicle’s trunk.
I love that they do all the grunt work for you, as opposed to going to the grocery yourself.
7. Give yourself a break when it doesn’t work out.
I try to have at least 3 legit meals planned out during the weeknights and then have one or two of those be leftovers. And then one easy meal out or delivery like pizza. But goodness, life happens and when it does, you need to be okay with skipping a meal at home here and there.
I like having easy Trader Joes frozen meals in the freezer as backup meals. Also making and freezing meals are great for those emergency type nights. Other ideas are starting a meal making club and cooking in large quantities and diving among the friends. Basically, don’t stress if life hands you lemons and all you can do is pick up the phone and order thai to go!
So that is my weeknight meal planning routine! What do you typically do? I would love to hear!