Getting started with meal planning

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Meal planning saves your family money, it reduces your stress and you end up eating healthier.  You'll also eat more as a family - which is good for everyone, especially kiddos.  But it seems like it can be such a daunting task.  Don't let it be!  Through these next few blog posts (and emails if you are on the list!) I'll share my best meal planning tips.

First, always, ALWAYS look at a calendar as your first step in planning. Your family is busy, right?  Get a handle on what is happening each night and plan accordingly. You have a dinner for work one night? Well, then you know that night is either eating out (Chik-fil-a in our house when it's daddy and kids), or something that husband can cook (breakfast for dinner is a pretty reliable dad meal!). There's nothing more wasteful than planning a beautiful week of family dinners only to have real life get in the way.

Second, know what you have on hand. Look in your fridge first and identify what NEEDS to be eaten. Then, check out your pantry and freezer. Make a short list (no more than five items) and go from there.

Third, be realistic. Don't plan to cook dinner at home every night. If you regularly cook one dinner at home every night right now, go for two.  Do that a month, then go for three, then four. I generally advise don't plan more than four, but also don't leave yourself completely dry the other days of the week.  For example, always have some meatballs in the freezer, a jar of sauce and pasta in the pantry and you will always have something easy for a fifth night.

Fourth, have a bank of meals your family likes. Figuring out what to eat can be the most daunting part of meal planning. Keep a binder, folder, list (on your phone, on Google docs/sheets, or hand-written) of dishes your family enjoys. It takes a little discipline to start, but in no time you will have a good sized list to turn to when you feel stuck. I also find that keeping a list helps me keep the variety going with a LOT less mental load!

Let's get you started - here's a super easy and healthy weeknight recipe to add to your lineup - Mini cheesy meatloaves with roasted green beans.

Stay tuned for more tips and ideas for family meal planning!