Meal Planning 101 – What’s for Dinner?

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Grocery shopping. Meal planning. Ugh, am I right?

When Alex was younger I’d inevitably get the late afternoon call or text – “What’s for dinner?” Then I’d try and remember what I had on hand, realize I didn’t have anything and know I was headed to the store after work. If I actually got off at 5 (which I rarely did) it meant it would take at least an hour before I was home. Depending on what we were having, we probably wouldn’t eat until at least 7 or 7:30. Then there was clean up, which would take another 20 minutes or so. By the time I was able to sit my happy ass down for the night, it was going on 8:30.

Geez, just thinking about it exhausts me.

Then one day, I learned about meal planning. As in, you spent time thinking about what to eat before it was time to eat. Wait, what? This was a revolutionary concept. This was game-changing. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.

But where to start?

Meal Planning 101

My approach to meal planning was to first make a list of all the dinners we ate often.

Once I had that I could plan which nights we’d have them. Some nights were just leftovers from the previous dinner and others would be simple eats that didn’t take long to pull together. Breakfast for dinner? Sure, I’ll pencil that in. One of the biggest benefits of meal planning is how much easier your grocery shopping gets. Heading to the store with a plan and a list is going to reduce the amount of stuff you pick up that you probably don’t need. If you’re really smart about meal planning, you can choose meals with common ingredients and buy in bulk.

Prepping as much as possible is also a time saver.

Cutting up vegetables or pre-cooking bacon are things you can do ahead of time and then throw in the fridge until you need them. The amount of prep is dependent on what meals are on the list but that might be something to keep in mind when you’re planning. Slow cookers are great too. Start it up in the morning and by the time you get home, it’s done. Yeah, buddy. That’s my kind of cooking.

Do as much of the prep as possible the Sunday before. Chop up veggies and fruit. Cut cheese into cubes if you need to. Hard boil the eggs.

RELATED: Weekly Food Prep: 7 Ideas to Instantly Make Life Easier

Buy a magnetic dry erase board for your fridge or DIY a cute chalkboard to hang in your kitchen.

Write down each week’s meals so that everyone in the house knows the plan. Invest in some containers for food storage. It might take a little trial and error until you find what works and what doesn’t work the way you thought it would. Been there, done that. Eventually, it’ll become second nature though.

If you don’t want to cook every night of the week, you might consider freezer cooking.

The same planning and shopping are involved, you would just cook entire meals ahead of time and then pop it in the freezer. Planning skills are really important in freezer cooking. You need to be organized and have a good plan when cooking so much in one day.

If you need some inspiration to get you started, here’s an example of a plan for 7 days worth of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks too!

Meal Planning Schedule

The majority of the meals in this plan require one pot, pan or slow cooker.

I haven’t yet ventured into the world of the Instant Pot but I’ll bet these recipes could be adapted to work.

Cook the bacon in the oven so you can cook more at once.

If you’ve never tried this before, do it! Alex is the one who introduced me to this and I will never cook bacon in a skillet again. It’s simple – line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay bacon on top of foil and cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Flip and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until it’s the desired doneness. I like crispy bacon so I leave it in for the full 30 minutes.

Never again will the question “what’s for dinner” leave you looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

Now you can answer “check the board” or at least know what it’s going to be. And your evenings are free again because you’ll have everything you need as soon as you walk in the door after work. What great timing too because Will & Grace is back on TV again! Who wants to be scrubbing dirty pans when they could be watching must-see TV? Not me!

If you want to come up with your own meal plan for the week, I’ve got your back! Click here to download this blank Weekly Mean Plan printable: Meal Plan Printable

Does meal planning got you down? No worries! Check out this 7 day meal plan, complete with recipes and a printable grocery list! And there's also a blank weekly meal plan printable! #mealplanning

I need more help!

If you’d like the FREE complete plan for the above that contains the recipes, tips and even a grocery list that you can take to the store with you, click here.