Meal Planning: The Secret to Fresh, Simple, Delicious Dinners
In between stomach growls, there’s a moment every day when we freeze and ask ourselves, “What am I going to make for dinner?” Starting a meal planning routine can relieve that moment of panic and allow you effortlessly prepare a week’s worth of meals. Whether you’re looking for easy recipes for one or two or need quick (and healthy) family dinners, we’ve got you covered.
Choosing Your Recipes
What does your week entail? — Is your calendar full of evening sports practices or late meetings that leave you with no prep time? Maybe you have a unique night when every family member is finally at home at the same time. Start by researching and selecting recipes to meet your needs for each night of the week. This could include:
Template your week — When you have a template to follow each week, meal planning takes less mental energy. Choose meals each week that fall into these categories:
- Sunday: grilling meal
- Monday: slow cooker meal
- Tuesday: casserole meal
- Wednesday: pasta meal
- Thursday: vegetarian meal
- Friday or Saturday: sandwich night
As a bonus, choose meals that you know provide leftovers so you have one or two fewer meals to plan for!
What do you need to use? — Fresh ingredients make for a great tasting meal, but they have a shelf life. At the start of each week, take a look through your fridge, freezer, and pantry and make note of ingredients that may soon go to waste (a package of chicken breast, ripe tomatoes, or a loaf of bread). Identify the foods you need to use and search recipes that feature these items.
Other Meal Planning Tips
Invest time in prep — Planning out your weekly recipes is step one, but meal planning also takes a little prep time. Take a look at your meals and see if there are steps that you can take beforehand to make the nightly task of cooking dinner go easier. Set aside time (a Sunday morning or afternoon work best) to mix sauces, chop vegetables, cook rice, or grill meats you’ll need later in the week. You’ll thank yourself during the pre-dinner rush!
Stock your pantry with staples — When you have key cooking ingredients ready to go, meal prep will be easier. Before you begin your first week of meal planning, be sure you have common ingredients on hand like olive oil, flour, garlic, spices, rice, and pasta. This will limit the number of ingredients you need to remember to purchase each week.
Even best efforts at meal planning can go awry, but with a well-stocked pantry, you have what you need to turn a handful of eggs into a dinner omelet or create a simple sauce that will give pizzaz to boring pasta.
Buy pre-prepared items — Another sanity saver is letting someone else do some of the work for you! Stauffers offers a number of prepared ingredients that you can incorporate into your meal planning recipes including:
- Rotisserie chicken
- Prepared side dishes
- Pre-cut vegetables
- Pre-spiraled veggie noodles