Is meal planning leaving you frustrated and stressed out instead of feeling calm, collected, and organized?
Do you fall back into your old ways of winging it? You may be making these newbie mistakes.
Start slowly and give yourself a break!
1. Not leaving enough time to plan.
Meal planning takes time. It’s really like 3 main steps – plan meals and make grocery list, go grocery shopping, and prep ingredients and cook.
You can follow something like this:
Friday night: Plan meals and make grocery list
Saturday morning: Go grocery shopping
Sunday: Prep ingredients (optional). This could mean chopping ingredients, preparing sauces, etc.
2. Cooking every single meal from scratch.
While meal planning means that you plan what meals you’re going to cook, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make the whole darn meal from scratch every. single. day! Yes, I am giving you permission to buy frozen pizza, bottled salad dressing, cooking sauces, and (gulp) pre-chopped vegetables, if that makes it easier for you.
On my meal plan, some days (when there’s a lot going on) it’s simply frozen pizza for dinner and there’s nothing wrong with that! And on other days, when I have more time and energy, I make a pizza from scratch because I want to and my kids love it. Make your own rules.
3. Trying to cook too many new recipes.
I get it. You envisioned meal planning to mean that you get to cook every new recipe you found on Pinterest and Facebook, every night of the week.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re like a typical working mom, after picking up the kids from school, you won’t have the energy by the time 5pm rolls around, to cook a whole spatchcock chicken, that you saw trending in your Facebook cooking group.
Be realistic with what you can and can’t do. If you’re always exhausted or the kids have to go to karate after dinner, then you know you have to plan a dinner that’s easy and quick to make. Costco rotisserie chicken, it is!
4. Going grocery shopping without a list.
We think we can memorize everything that we need to buy. Sure, like that ever worked out?
You have like 10 million things on your mind and there’s always that one thing, one thing!, that you forget to buy. So do yourself a favor and make a freakin’ list!
Jot it down on your phone’s notepad or write it out on paper.
Bonus Tip: If I write it out on paper, I try to take a picture of my grocery list with my phone right after, in case I leave the list at home.
5. Not having a back up.
Sometimes when trying a new recipe, it doesn’t turn out how you expected. And sometimes, well, it’s a disaster and your family refuses to eat your mistake! That’s never happened to me… not!
That’s why I always keep frozen pizza in the freezer and boxed mac and cheese in the pantry. It has saved dinner more times than I can count. And if you have no backup, then there’s nothing wrong with a fun, family outing to McDonald’s or In n Out, to bring the family closer together.
6. Not stocking up your pantry and fridge.
I really love it when I look at a new recipe and I have, like, all the ingredients needed to make it. That means I am more likely to make that dish.
On the other hand, it sucks when you’re getting ready to cook dinner and you realize that you’ve run out of cooking oil or salt. It’s frustrating, right?
Stay on top of the staples you use most often.
7. Not looking at your calendar.
It’s easy to want to get ahead of yourself and plop yourself down to start your weekly meal plan. But first, check what’s going on in the week ahead.
Is it mom’s birthday on Friday and that means that you’ll go out to Benihana’s… and you don’t have to cook! Or on Thursday, it’s Back-to-School night at 6:30pm, which means the family has to eat dinner earlier so warming up some leftovers would work.
8. Forgetting to check what you already have on hand.
Doing a quick check of what’s in your pantry, fridge, and freezer can save you money. It will save you from buying multiples of the same thing that you already have. Plus, it can give you ideas on what to cook, based on what you already have.
9. Not using up what you have.
This goes hand in hand with the tip above. A huge key to not wasting food is to keep track of what is left over and needs to be used up.
If you have a big bag of broccoli from Costco in the fridge, then broccoli beef stir fry makes sense for tomorrow’s dinner.
10. Not giving yourself a break.
Everyone needs a break. If you’re cooking every single meal, you can burn yourself out and then never want to meal plan again.
It’s not a bad idea to plan a night to eat out. There, I said it – the two words that frugal living blogs always guilt trip you about – eating out!!!
You have permission to eat out at least once a week and give yourself a breather from cooking and washing dishes. You deserve that!