Dinner time can be rough. Let these 10 meal planning tips to help you cook from scratch this week!
5 pm rolls around or whatever time it is that you cook dinner.
There is the age old question of, “What’s for dinner?”. Maybe you are asking yourself or maybe one of your kids in asking you for the 10 thousandth time.
You look in the fridge. Even though the shelves are full of healthy ingredients it feels like there is nothing to eat.
But your blood sugar is dropping and other people need to be fed. You either call in a pizza or throw randomness together that will have to pass as dinner.
You sigh and wish that you had this whole cooking from scratch thing down.
What you need is a plan. A meal plan.
Meal planning can seem so daunting but it really isn’t’! You can cook simple meals from scratch it just takes a bit of planning. Try applying some of these meal planning tips to help you cook from scratch this week!
10 Meal Planning Tips to Help You Cook From Scratch
1. Shop Your Pantry
When you are making a meal plan for the week it’s not the best idea to pick out meals that are full of all sorts of things that you have never heard of before. First, shop your pantry, and your fridge, and your freezer. You are likely to find that there is more hiding there than you thought.
The staples you already have at home make a good foundation for your meals for the week. It’s also a good way to save money by not buying double of items that you didn’t need yet. Plus, you know that you are using up what you have at home and not wasting it.
2. Take Inventory and Keep a List
Since you are already checking what food you have in stock, make a list and keep an inventory of what you have. If you notice that you are low on an item, add it to your shopping list so that you will have it on hand when you want to take that item out to cook dinner.
It is so frustrating to realize that you are out of say ground beef when you had tacos on the meal plan for the night. It leaves you stressed and spiraling for a replacement meal.
3. Stock the Basics (The not so boring ones too)
Think beyond the eggs, butter, and milk.
A well-stocked pantry with ingredients that you love is essential to making simple meals from scratch. Think of the basics, do you make a lot of ethnic food? Maybe jasmine or basmati rice needs to be in your pantry.
Does your family love beans? Find out what that type(s) those are and keep them on hand.
What about spices? Do you have a backup supply of unrefined salt and black pepper? Don’t leave it at that. I find that keeping a variety of spices on hand makes cooking more exciting and eating too.
Why settle for regular paprika when smoked paprika adds a nice pop of flavor to a dish? (This was a simple game changer for me.)
4. Consider What Your Family Likes
What are the meals that those you love keep asking you to make again and again? What is the dish that you think of when your stomach starts to grumble?
For me, that would be my red pepper and fennel soup with sausage.
Keep a list of favourites that you can rotate through on a semi-frequent basis. What dishes are you good at making that you find joy in preparing?
Add a few new meals to the rotation too. While trying out a new recipe every single night might seem like a great idea, often it can lead to burn out. Keep your favourites but mix in a few simple, new to you recipes too.
5. Time Restraints
Be honest with yourself. What does each day look like? A dish that takes 45 minutes to prepare is not going to work on a night when you get home from work at 5 and have to be somewhere by 6.
Maybe you have more time on Monday than Tuesday. Look at the recipes that are new to you and actually read them all the way through to see what extra bits of time may be hidden in the recipe.
6. Allow for flexibility
Sometimes you have the best intentions in the world but you forget to thaw the meat, or the day just catches up with you.
Make your meal plan work for you and not the other way around. It’s not black and white (Hey there all my Type A friends!). Allow yourself the freedom to switch meals around, or scrap one mid-week if you really just aren’t feeling it. (Can you tell that I am an INFP?)
Maybe a kid gets sick. Maybe you get sick. If you have space try to keep a few emergency meals in the freezer. AKA frozen pizza. Or maybe even a stash of chicken nuggets (when I’m on my game I make these to keep on hand) and frozen veggies.
Give yourself grace. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this!
7. Start with Dinner
It’s easy to want to plug in a meal for every single meal. That may work for some but for others, it can overwhelm you and make you burn out before you start. Get dinner figured out first. Then add the other two meals in.
For me, it looks like this two or three set breakfasts that I rotate through simple things like eggs and toast, smoothies, or oatmeal. Lunch is leftovers that I take to work.
8. When you can, prep
Prep when you get a change. This is a game changer. If you are already chopping onions for your pasta sauce but know that you are going to be having tacos in a couple of nights, go ahead a chop a second onion to have ready. That way you are only cleaning up once.
9. Set aside time to Plan
Before you go shopping take time to get set up your plan. That way after you have checked your list, you know what you have on hand and what you need to buy at the store.
Keep the meal plan in a place that you will see if in case you forget. For me, I keep my meal plan in my daily planner. That way when I sit down to see what is planned for the next day I know if I need to take meat out to thaw or put beans to soak.
10. Utilize Leftovers
Leftovers are your friend! I know that we all have different relationships with leftovers but they can be a key to successfully creating meals from scratch. If you are cooking a batch of beans for soup but know that you are making refried beans later in the week set some aside before you add your seasoning.
Leftover steamed vegetables can be added to scrambled eggs for breakfast or to soup the next night.
You’ve got this, you can cook from scratch. We all can nourish those we love and it doesn’t have to be complicated. You have what it takes.