If you have trouble at dinner time with figuring out what to make, not having the right ingredients or forgetting about food in the fridge and having it go bad then planning a week’s worth of dinners at a time will change your life. For the small investment of a couple hours on the weekend, you will save more than twice that during the week when you need it most.
Step One: Calendar
Look at your calendar for the upcoming week or use my free Weekly Meal Planner printable. What nights are you not home or are planning to eat out? Cross those off. Any really busy nights that you need something already made? Put that down. Are there any days you have some extra time that you want to make something that takes longer? Make a note of that.
Step Two: The Fun Part – Picking out Recipes!
What are you feeling this week? Comfort food, seasonal ingredients, specific cooking method like slow cooker or grill?
On nights when you need something already made:
- choose a recipe for the night before that makes good leftovers like All Purpose Braised Pork Shoulder or Easy Weeknight Roast Chicken.
- or take note of something you have in the freezer and put a note on the calendar two days before to move it to the fridge to defrost.
Fill in any remaining days with family favorites like Beefy Mac ‘n’ Cheese etc.
Step Three: Fine Tune
If there’s anything that would be good to take for lunches or to freeze, note that you’re going to double the recipe so you can make sure you have twice the ingredients on your grocery list.
Step Four: Get Your List On
When making your grocery list, here are some tips for making it a fast trip.
- Think about your breakfast and lunches. If you do it right, you’ll only need to do this shopping and a very small one later in the week for fresh produce and meat.
- Group you items by section: produce, meat, seafood, dairy, aisles.
Write your aisle items in order. For instance at the store I shop at the most, the first aisle is canned vegetables and salad dressings, the second is juices and tea/coffee and the third is tuna fish and broth/stock etc. It’s human nature to have a routine route you usually travel in the store. This will cut your store time substantially and you’re less likely to miss an item.
And for god’s sake don’t go to the grocery store between 5pm and 7pm during the week, that’s their busiest time. Also Sunday afternoons can be rough. The best time to go is first thing in the morning during the week. I go right from dropping the kids off at school. Not only is the store empty but I’m still in coffee mode so less likely to impulse buy. After 8pm during the week is also a slow time, but I’m nearly unconscious by that time.
Hacks & Shortcuts
Make a large batch of rice, portion it and freeze it in Ziplock bags for an instant starch side dish or you can buy frozen cooked rice. Really!
Keep pantry staples on hand like pasta and frozen homemade marinara or jarred for emergency dinners. A couple cans of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and a teaspoon of cumin make a quick chili. Peanut butter sandwich anyone?
Just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean things won’t change! Keep your meal plan handy so you can update it. This will keep you from forgetting about food and having it go bad and losing things in the fridge.