1. Spend time each week looking for recipes.
2. Create a place to save recipes, and keep it SIMPLE.
3. Ask your friends or family, and roommates what they like to eat.
4. Check the weather- hot or cold weather food?
5. Keep a meal journal. It’s a good way to remember things you used to cook, and still love.
6. Start a calendar. What would you like to cook over the next few days or few weeks.?
7. Go with theme nights (soup night, pasta night, beans).
8. Choose a shopping day and make a shopping list.
9. Check what’s on sale. Plan for leftovers. Have extra pasta on Monday? That can be reheated for lunch on Tuesday. Leftover chicken on Thursday. Use it to top a salad, fill a sandwich or add to a soup on the weekend.
10. Prep food as soon as you get back from the store. Wash and dry lettuce. Chop onions. Roast vegetables. Shred zucchini for quick stir-fries. Stack up glass containers of prepped ingredients in the refrigerator and bask in your own awesome preparedness.
11. Cook components of your meals. For instance, start a batch of tomato sauce while you wash greens and prep squash. The sauce can go on pizza one night, and in lasagne the next. Or roast a chicken right then that you can eat that night and use for sandwiches and pasta the rest of the week.
12. Be strategic about freezing. Make a double batch of that sauce mentioned above and freeze half for later. Make a double batch of soup, stew, chicken cacciatore, cooked beans — throw it in the freezer.
13. Don’t overstuff the refrigerator. Keep a list nearby of everything in the fridge, especially leftovers, as a visual reminder of what remains to be eaten.
14. Keep a well-stocked pantry.
First step is making the commitment. Make the decision and go.
Make a shopping list. Keep a generic list on hand that includes things you buy frequently (such as milk, eggs, etc.) then add extras so you don’t have to start from scratch each week.
Shop strategically. Consider your market’s schedule by asking when it receives fresh shipments from vendors. Be flexible with your list, too: If you’re planning to cook asparagus one night but the green beans look better, go with the beans.
Cook perishables first.
Grade your efforts. Every time you finish a meal, critique it. Rate it out of 10 or give it a A, B or C. A for excellent, B for average and C for need not repeat In no time at all, you’ll have a complete collection of time-tested and family-approved meals.
Assess your eating situation. Our eating situations can vary greatly from week to week depending on work schedules, after school activities, evening commitments, travel plans–the list goes on.
How many meals you need to plan for? Take a few moments to think about what you have going on next week. Taking a quick inventory of everyone’s plans will quickly give you a rough idea of how many meals you’ll need to get through the week, and how much mileage you can get from each recipe.
What you have time for. If you have a crazy busy week coming up, make a mental note to be on the lookout for quick, slow cooker or make-ahead meals that can served up in a hurry.
Create a master recipe list. Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favourites to fill in the gaps. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation!
Save and organize your recipes on an app or in a folder.
Whether you use a simple notecard, a printable template or prefer a digital version, it’s a good idea to keep a paper copy of your calendar in plain view. Making your meal plan visual may hold you more accountable for actually doing the cooking.
Fill in your calendar. Pick some favourites from your master list and 1 or 2 new recipes to try.
Look for sales. What’s on sale this week at the supermarket?
Think seasonal. What fresh produce is available this time of year? Is it salad season or soup weather?
Picture the plate. As you plan each meal, keep in mind that vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate, lean protein should cover a quarter, and the rest of your plate should be grains, preferably whole grains.
Be flexible. Your menu isn’t written in stone. Feel free to swap things around. Or designate one night as “cook’s choice” and use that night to clear out the refrigerator by making a casserole, stir-fry or other mix-and-match meal.
Commit to a Definite Time Period for Meal Planning
Scour your pantry, freezer and fridge to plan meals around items you already have on hand
Plan meals that include foods from each of the food groups
Include snacks on your meal plan so that you can use them as opportunities to eat more nutritious foods
Look for meals that use similar ingredients (like fresh spices or leftover chicken) to avoid waste
Remember to include beverages in your meal plan to identify where you may be taking in empty calories or have opportunities to add food groups like milk or fruit