Find yourself staring at your empty refrigerator yet again while a toddler clutches your ankles yelling for dinner? Been there! Meal planning can sometimes be a stressful and never-ending chore that lacks enjoyment and satisfaction. You can also fall into the pattern of doing a great job once in a while but not consistently – leaving you with a few weeks here and there where the refrigerator seems bare. Or worse, weeks where you feel like you are at the grocery store every single night! All of this can add up to boring meals, higher grocery bills, and potentially poor nutrition habits.
Check out these pro tips to help make your meal planning routine stick!
1. Focus on favorites
Have you ever made a recipe for the first time and thought to yourself, wow this is great? Maybe you even asked your family if they liked it and- oh my -they did! Then, you pinned that recipe to a never ending Pinterest board never to be seen again. My tip is to try a few key things to keep those recipes in rotation. First, try to keep your Pinterest boards small and specific. The less to sort through, the more likely you’ll be to find it again. Second, keep a list on paper or an app on your phone. Once you get the thumbs up from your family, make sure to write it down. Even just the name can help jog your memory when trying to make a grocery list.
2. Instant pot for the win
Instant pots are a pressure cooking device that can cut traditional cook times in half. You can find tons of quick and easy recipes for full meals or just sides that work well in the instant pot. I like to use the instant pot for a side dish like mashed potatoes that would normally take 20-30 minutes. They cook in about 7 minutes, and I can spend those 7 minutes getting the rest of the meal on the table.
3. Don’t forget about left-overs
Left-overs can be tricky because if you’re like me, you’re not a huge fan of eating the same meal over and over. I’m sure your kids aren’t either. Make left-over nights fun with a simple twist - it’s Restaurant Night! Feature your left-overs from the past few nights as a chef’s special on your very own kitchen restaurant menu. Have your family “order” their meal and serve it up restaurant style. Kids get a choice and you get to clean out your refrigerator!
4. Keep it simple
Some of the best meals I’ve made are really the most simple. The fewer the ingredients the better. An easy way to save money with these simple meals is to make the vegetable the star of the plate. Feature a cauliflower steak or a broccoli stir-fry. You can also treat your veggies like meat and try out some aggressive cooking methods to bring out some flavors you’ve likely never experienced. Char broil a carrot, smoke a beet, or grill your cauliflower steaks – using traditional meat seasonings and cooking methods can take your veggie to the next level.
5. Start a rotation
Avoid the low weeks in-between those great ones by implementing a 4 or 6 week rotation. Keep the grocery list of the weeks that went well. Put them together one after the other and repeat! You may be turned off by eating the same meal every Tuesday. But chances are, if it was a good recipe, you won’t mind if it comes around again in a month. Change out a few recipes here and there for seasonality but keep the core the same. This will not only help you save money, but you’ll become more efficient in the kitchen. The more you make a dish, the more familiar with the steps you’ll become and the easier it’ll all be at dinner time!
Try out a few of these techniques with your family to see what sticks. Still struggling to find what works best for you and your lifestyle? Connect with a Registered Dietitian on ShoU for some expert coaching on meal planning and more!