When I first moved in with Delvin, we were just dating, but we worked really long hours and by the time we got home, I didn't feel like cooking. This resulted in us eating Tuna Helper and carry-out the majority of the week. I knew sooner or later we would have a family, and I would need to learn how to cook more balanced meals. When I was pregnant with Luke we bought our house, and that's when I started meal planning. Here are some tips and tricks to planning meals and making your life a little easier.
Build a Recipe Book:
The first thing I did when I started my meal planning, was built a recipe book. I started searching the internet for any and all recipes that looked good. Some great recipe sites I frequently use are; Allrecipes, Better Homes and Gardens, Recipe Lion, and Campbell's Kitchen. My favorite by far is Allrecipes though. They have everything! And they have great reviews as well. I reigistered with most of these sites, so I normally get a few recipes emailed to me each week. Another great plave to find recipes for your recipe book is in magazines. I have subscriptions to All You and Martha Stewart Living. Both magazines have tons of great recipes in them every month.
Choose Your Meals For the Week:
Create a table on a piece of paper with Monday through Sunday on it. First thing, fill in weekly activities and work schedule(s). Maybe Tuesday night your son has basketball practice, so you know you have to make something quick. Or Thursday's you get off late so you'd like to have something already made that your husband can dish out for the kids. Either way, filling in your activities helps you plan your meals for the week.
Browse the Weekly Circulars:
The great thing these days, is that you can just go online to view most major supermarket chains weekly circulars. I always pull up my circulars online first, even if I'm just planning on grabbing a few things. You never know what kind of awesome deals you might find. I normally make one list specifically based on the things I plan on buying that are on sale in the circular.
Make a List:
Give Yourself Time:
Only go to the grocery store when you know you have at least 1 hour during the week, or 2 hours on the weekend to dedicate to your shopping trip. If you try to rush through the store to get everything on your list, the odds are your going to forget something. That will throw off your meal plans for the week, which you're trying to avoid.
Organize Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer:
When you get home from the grocery store, you want to organize your meals so everything will be easy to find, and ready to cook when it's time. The worst thing you can do is forget to take out a 4 pound roast, and have no way of defrosting it! This will throw off your entire weekly meal plan. So, when you get home you should immediately pull the meat/protein for your first meal and put it in the fridge. Always remember to pull your meat out of the freezer and transfer it to the fridge the morning of the day before your planning to use it (especially if it's a slow cooker recipe).
Post Your Table:
I'm referring to the weekly table we drew up earlier. The one with weekly activities and meals. Post this somewhere that you'll constantly see it. Mine is directly on the fridge door, since I'm constantly going into the fridge, so it catches my eye. But you can put yours anywhere.
The only advice I have left to give is this...
Try new things - Don't bat down a recipe because you think your family won't like it. Just try it. You may be surprised!
Read reviews - The recipes that have 4.5-5 stars based on over 1,000 reviews are the good ones. Read, read, read! You'll learn more then whether it's 'good' or 'bad'.
Substitute - If you try a recipe with turkey one time and don' like it, try substituting with chicken next time around. If we don't particularly love a recipe the first time I make it, I always try to make another variation of it a second time (a week or so later) to see if it's the recipe, or if it's certain ingredients.
Have fun planning! :-)