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My husband loves to cook, but the meal-planning has always rested on my shoulders. Grocery shopping, budgeting, and come up with another new idea of what to serve… it was a little overwhelming! Especially since I was happy eating cereal for every meal when I was single! But meal planning has also saved me a lot of headache, because I don’t have to worry about the age-old question, “What’s for dinner, honey?” My husband knows, it’s on the fridge!

Meal Planning Tips

1. Collect Recipes

Although our mothers and grandmothers can be excellent resources for family recipes, my phone is my favorite place to collect recipes. I follow tons of groups on Facebook, where people are constantly posting recipes! Instagram and Pinterest are also awesome sources for inspiration. When someone posts something I like, I take a screenshot of the recipe, so it’s stored in my photos, or I save it to my Facebook collection.

Facebook Collection: Did you know Facebook has an option to save a post for later? As you’re scrolling, you can save any recipe or video to a collection. Mine is called “Dinner Ideas”, but you can name it anything you want! When I can’t think of any ideas, I just open my Facebook collections and choose one of my saved recipes.

Here is a list of classic recipes that you can rotate into your meal list!

2. Plan Before You Shop

We’ve all been there. Just the other day my husband and I got back from grocery shopping and we stared at our empty fridge. “What did we even buy? We have like no food.” Oh yeah, we were supposed to get some of that, weren’t we? There’s nothing worse than trying to make dinner and finding that you’ve missed the main ingredient. Or all of the other ingredients.

Easy solution? Write it down on paper. I make a list of the 5-6 meals we are planning for the week (we always have some leftovers to eat one night), and then list all of the ingredients underneath that we would need. Then I cross out (or leave out) the items we already have, so I know not to buy more. It makes grocery shopping so much more productive when you have a list.

3. Buy “Matching” Ingredients

Need a zucchini for one recipe, but don’t need to use the whole thing? One huge money waster and budget blower is when food goes bad. When deciding what meals to make during the week, choose meals that have matching ingredients. I like to make chicken enchilada soup one night, and then use the leftovers the next night to make tacos. Before throwing that zucchini away, sauté it and use it as a side for dinner tomorrow! Make sure you know how you are going to be using all of your ingredients before they go bad!

4. Grocery Pickup

Nothing saves me more time or money than grocery pickup. I do ours through Walmart, but I know of a lot of local grocery stores that are starting to do it too! It’s so easy—shop online, select a time, go pick it up! I can sit on my couch and only get up to check my pantry to see what we have. It also helps me exercise self-control because it’s easier to tell myself not to splurge if I never go into the store! Get $10 off your first pick up by clicking this link!

5. Make Double

Cooking chicken in your InstantPot tonight? Make double. You can use it tomorrow for a chicken salad sandwich or chicken enchiladas. Making lasagna? Double it. There are so many great meals that can be frozen or refrigerated, that make meal planning a breeze. We usually make double at dinner, put the leftovers in Tupperware, and take them in the morning for lunch. Do yourself a favor and just make more of whatever you’re making anyway. You’ll thank yourself later.

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My Instant Pot has made meal-planning a breeze! Buy yours here:
https://amzn.to/2IlljIn (aff link)

6. Instant Pot

I honestly don’t know how I lived without my InstantPot. Everyone was talking about them, so I figured I should try it out. It changed my life. Frozen chicken is cooked and fall-off-the-bone perfect in 15 minutes. My husband said that although he was bringing a car into our marriage, I was bringing the InstantPot, so we were pretty much even! Haha! We have the InstantPot Mini, and it has more than enough space for the two of us, even with my husband’s appetite. Seriously, this has made meal planning so easy! Because even when I slip up and forget to make dinner, I can have it done in 30 minutes and it still tastes like I had it planned all along.

7. Have “Surprise” Days

In our house, we call them “Jesse Surprise” nights. It’s when my husband makes dinner using a little bit of everything in our fridge. It’s a great way to use up any produce that is going bad, or for nights when you don’t feel like you have ingredients that even go together. Think of it as a fun game of Chopped, where you have to figure out how to use the ingredients you have. It’s made for some funny stories, but it has also led to some staple recipes we now use all the time! And our food rarely goes bad.

(You can also use the website My Fridge Food to help you find recipes with what you have on hand!)

8. Stick to the Tried and True

I used to go above and beyond to try to impress my husband with fancy meals that took forever to prepare. I’d spend hours looking for the right recipe and then shopping for odd ingredients. Although he appreciated my efforts, it’s also important to cut yourself some slack. You’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy. So stick to those tried and true recipes that you know you have time for, and you know will turn out great.

Happy Planning!

-Makayla

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