*By: Megan Deppen*
Welcome to the first installment of our Culinary Crash Course Series. In this series, we will share some basic cooking tips including knife skills, pantry staples, types of pots and pans, etc. I don’t consider myself a novice in the kitchen, but there have been many things I have pondered over the years in regards to the fundamentals of cooking. I have found there’s a lot of trial and error involved, but it’s really about feeling comfortable in your own kitchen.
For our first post, I focus on meal planning tips. Since many of us are pressed for time during the busy work week, worrying about what we are eating for dinner every night can turn into a recurring headache, especially if you have a family and many mouths to feed. If you don’t meal plan, perhaps you might consider it after reading this post. If you’re already doing this, maybe you can share additional tips with us in the comments below.
My husband and I have recently got into planning our meals on a weekly basis and we have found it really does make a difference. Here are a few reasons why meal planning has been helpful for us and tips to consider if you’re interested in trying it.
- Saves Time – Instead of trying to figure out at the last minute what you are having for dinner, you’re already ahead of the game and know exactly what you’ll be eating that night. You can also block off some time in your schedule to make some of your meals ahead, so you can grab your meal, heat it up and eat it.
- Saves Money – In most instances, meal planning helps you save money because you know exactly what grocery items you need and are not just buying random ingredients that you think you might use that week. It’s also helpful if you choose your meals based on what’s on sale at the grocery store.
- Less Food Waste – Meal planning for us has definitely cut down on food waste, since we know exactly what we are making and what ingredients to purchase.
- Leftovers – Make sure to dedicate a day or two to eat your leftovers if you have them. That means one or two days you won’t have to worry about cooking!
- Fun to Experiment with New Recipes/Ingredients – Meal planning has really made me dive into cooking and experiment with new recipes and ingredients. Of course having the same meals each week gets boring, so make sure you change it up and get creative with new flavors and recipes. Furthermore, this expands your cooking repertoire.
Meal planning does take a little effort to figure out your meals each week, but it really is worth it! Here are a few tips to get started.
- Create a Meal Planning Schedule – We only do meal planning for dinner, but you can absolutely do it for all three meals. Also, we typically don’t meal plan on the weekends, just during the week, but that is up to you and your preferences. First, create your meal calendar and figure out what meals you want to make for that week and what you have time to cook. If you want to dedicate one meal that takes a bit more time to prep, then go for it, but if you don’t have time, you can always opt for quick delicious recipes.
- Figure Out Recipes – When creating your meal plan, check to see if there are things already in your pantry or refrigerator that need to be used. Perhaps, you have a staple meal that you make every week or maybe you want to create a theme for each day. Is there a recipe you’ve been wanting to try? It’s really up to you and your preferences, but make sure to block off some time in one of those days to prep and cook some of your meals.
- Make Grocery List and Shop– Once you know exactly what you’ll be making, make your grocery list. It might be helpful to organize your list into food group categories, so you don’t miss anything. Also, this is the time to check if any of your items are on sale that week of if you have coupons. If you’re on a budget, it might be smart to plan your recipes around ingredients that are on sale if you can do it.
- Cook and Enjoy! – If you enjoy cooking, this should be the fun part for you! The most important thing to remember is do what works for you. Like I mentioned above, meal planning can be a bit time consuming, but I promise it will pay off!
Do you have any meal planning tips? Leave them in the comments below.