Meal Planning Made Easy

Meg DeForest is a former Community Librarian at EPL.

Are you looking for some ways to freshen up your meal planning to make the most out of what you have? We’re trying to go grocery shopping less often these days but eating at home more means there are only so many ways to use the same leftovers throughout the weekMeal planning is basically just taking all those sad frantic questions of “What’s for dinner tonight?” and asking them all at once for the week.  Some may even want to take planning to the next step of cooking and prepping all meals at the beginning of the week. All preppers are planners but not all planners have to be preppers, so take the tips that work for you and your life from this list. 

Start With Making a Menu

  • Think of favourites & find new recipes that you and your family enjoy.  Make sure to save recipes that you like so that you can remember to use them again next time.  Make notes on your recipes: Was it easy to do?  Does it take longer than it says?  Or is there a substitution you want to try next time?  Write it down so you remember when you try it next. 
  • If you want some help finding new recipes from around the world, you can check out A to Z World Food, opens a new window. 
  • Plan around foods that are on sale or are seasonal.  If you need some help finding seasonal ideas you can try this., opens a new window 
  • Avoid recipes that need special ingredients you’re not going to use again or that won’t keep in the pantry for later. 
  • Speaking of your pantry, check your pantry and freezer when you are making your menu.  Do you have a lot of something that is going to expire and you should use up? Maybe you won’t need to buy more flour if you find some hiding in the back of the pantry.  If you want ideas on what to include in your pantry, we have that here., opens a new window 
  • Try out different grains like quinoa or bulgur, or branch out to more grains than you usually try instead of rice maybe couscous? 
  • Try to have a meatless meal once a week. Meatless Monday’s, opens a new window are one trend you could try out or any of these 100 Vegetarian meals., opens a new window 

Plan to Use Leftovers

  • Plan to make extras of recipes that you like so you can freeze them for later or eat several meals from one preparation. 
  • Also, plan to repurpose leftovers - maybe last nights grilled veggies can reappear in this morning's omelet, for example. 
  • If you need some ideas for loving your leftovers we have you covered. 

Shop Smarter

  • Don’t just start your shopping list as you’re on the run out to your car.  Keep a whiteboard or note on your phone going and add items to it when you think of them throughout the week. 
  • Check your pantry one more time for staples that may be running low.  You can even make a list of the staples you like to have on hand at all times and post it in your pantry. 
  • When you make your listorganize it by the area of the grocery store it is in and check that you have items in all the categories you’ll need, ie. meat, vegetables, grains, dry goods.  This helps to ensure you haven’t left off a section that you’ll need to make another trip for later. 
  • Once you’ve made your liststick to it!  You can be creative, but don’t get distracted from the things you need to get.  Or end up with things you won’t have time to try.  
  • Make sure you have a mix of fresh, frozen and shelf stable food to get you through a couple of weeks.  Eat the fresh stuff the first week and you will still have plenty of supplies for the second week from the rest. 
  • If you’re looking for great shopping tips you can check them out here. 

Meal Prepping

  • You can make entire meals in advance and portion them out into individual servings that you put aside in your fridge or freezer. 
  • Or maybe you want to make a big batch of ingredient building blocks like boiling up some sweet potatoes or pre-chopping chicken breasts.  Try doing all the sous chef work and chop and make sauces or dressings in advance, so that when you go to make dinner you can just heat up and assemble. 
  • Prep what will make your life easier when you are cooking throughout the week. But make sure to be realistic not aspirational.  If you are really not going to eat broccoli for 3 meals in a week then don’t prep for it.  Make sure your plan and prep are something you can stick to or it won’t save you time and you’ll end up wasting instead of saving food too. 

Learn What Works For You

  • This kind of meal planning and prepping will be new for a lot of us and it's important to find the strategies that work for you.  As you go, think about what works for you and what you could do differently. The goal is to make life easier, not more complicated! 

If you’re looking for more help, EPL has a List of meal planning books, opens a new window that you can check out for more ideas to get you stepping up your game. 


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