What I’ve learned from my years as a family dinner planning expert is that the key to maintaining our sanity around dinnertime, plus reducing waste and saving time and money, is to plan a few meals in advance (I usually plan 4 or 5) and try to grocery shop just once a week. I’ve developed 6 steps to easy weekly menu planning:
1. Keep a grocery list somewhere prominent in your kitchen so that you and anyone else can add to it during the week. When you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully restocked after your next grocery trip. Teach your family to do this too and you’ll all have your essentials on hand when you need them.
2. Look at your calendar for the upcoming week. Note how many dinners you will need to make, and anything else you need to shop for (i.e. dish for a potluck, school snack, etc.)
3. Before you start to plan your meals, look in your refrigerator and see what ingredients you need to use up. Incorporate those items into your planned meals to avoid waste and save money.
4. Using your favorite cookbooks, websites, or other sources, pick meals for every night but one (I like to get creative with leftover ingredients one night, to avoid throwing out food). Plan for some variety so your family won’t be eating chicken or pasta every night. Remember to keep weeknight meals simple with one easy main dish and one or two side dishes. If you’d like more inspiration, sign up for a two-week free trial of The Scramble.
5. Update the grocery list with everything you’ll need for the meals you’ve selected, plus a few side dishes, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. The goal is to just go to the market once each week, and, over the course of the week, to use up everything you purchased.
6. Keep the freezer stocked with a few easy side dishes, frozen vegetables, and a backup healthy meal or two in case an evening doesn’t go as planned. When you need them, try to use the oldest ones first so the food doesn’t get freezer burned.
If this all sounds like too much effort or you still feel overwhelmed, simply sign up for The Scramble’s family-friendly meal plans and we’ll take care of everything for you!