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How do you keep meal planning simple? I know that downloadable meal plans and grocery lists are supposed to make life easier. And they do, they totally do. But in some seasons of life and for some people’s personalities, the structure of meal plans and grocery lists are not the right fit.
Does that mean that meal planning of any kind has no place in a more flexible lifestyle? No, of course not. It just takes a different form.
Trying to feed a family with no plan in place is a recipe for disaster, overspending, wasting food and way too many trips to the drive-thru. If meal plans and grocery lists aren’t in your wheelhouse, what should be? I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but check out these six simple tips below to keep meal planning simple.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”― J.R.R. Tolkien
Simple Meal Plan Tip #1 Daily Themes
Give each day of the week it’s own designation: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Lazy Leftover Sundays. This makes meal planning simple because you don’t have an infinite number of choices for dinner. It also makes it handy to know what ingredients to buy on your trip to the store. If you are doing chicken soft tacos on Tuesday, you know you’ll need boneless skinless chicken breasts, flour tortillas, and avocados for guacamole.
Simple Meal Plan Tip #2 Keep a List of Go-To Meals
Another great way to keep meal planning simple is to sit down with your family and brainstorm favorite family meals. You know your family best and know that everyone loves spaghetti with meat sauce, but pasta primavera is a dinner that your crew turns up their nose at. When you have a list of those favorite meals put together and saved in one spot, like your phone, it’s easy to plan a meal that everyone will eat.
Simple Meal Plan Tip #3 Stock Your Freezer
If you are lucky enough to have a separate freezer, you will love this one. Even if you only have the freezer that’s part of your refrigerator, you can still stock up. Make sure you have frozen vegetables and fruits, these make nutritious delicious meals in a snap. You can also freeze bread, meats, and even cheese. Shredded cheese in the freezer is a perfect way to keep cheese fresh and ready to use.
One other way to use your freezer to avoid the drive-thru is to keep a few “fast food” items on hand, like chicken nuggets and french fries. These simple meals can be made in the oven or an air fryer. You can even add a bag of salad from the grocery store to beef up this dinner’s nutritional profile.
Simple Meal Plan Tip #4 Stock Your Pantry
If you don’t have a pantry, don’t worry, all you need is an extra cupboard, a repurposed closet in your home or even just put up some shelves against an unused wall. Keeping cans of beans, tomatoes, chilies, and fruit will help make meal planning come together in a snap. Also keep on hand spices, dried beans and pastas, and definitely some salt and pepper!
Simple Meal Plan Tip #5 Use Your Crockpot
Cooking with a crockpot is the ultimate in simple meal planning. Just dump in your ingredients, set it and forget it. You can walk in the door at the end of the day to a completely cooked, hearty meal that took five minutes to throw together in the morning and all you need to do is spoon it out in the evening.
Simple Meal Plan Tip #6 Use Leftovers
Leftovers get a bad rap and it really isn’t deserved. We’ve been calling them “Second Chance” at my house for a while now and it really does make people more likely to eat them. When I was a kid, I loved leftover night, it meant I got to eat exactly what I liked for dinner!
There are other ways of using leftovers than just reheating meals. You can double a dish one night and freeze half for later. Or you can cook up more chicken, beef, beans or rice than is necessary for one meal and use the rest to make a new dinner another night. Cooking with leftovers is a great way to get creative and to get kids involved as well.
Meal planning doesn’t have to take a lot of effort and planning and you can even meal plan simply by being flexible and creative. Even just five minutes of planning can make a huge difference in creating delicious meals the family will love.
What is your favorite tip to make a simple meal plan? Let me know in the comments below.
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.Charles Dudley Warner
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