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UPDATE: Nicole recently released her new book, The Extraordinary Art of Meal Planning, with helpful tips!
Imagine this… it has been a typically busy day full of school, homework, meetings, work, and suddenly, you realize it is 5:30pm, and the kids are hungry. You open the fridge, hoping there are leftovers from a recent night out at a restaurant. No luck. Pasta … pancakes … pizza … Does this sound familiar?
As a child, I remember sitting around the dinner table and enjoying a home-cooked meal almost every night. Even to this day, my Mom makes a huge effort to cook our favorite meal when we are there for dinner, including the best mashed potatoes and gravy I have ever had.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be a better cook for my family so that they can enjoy these same memories. I want to use the crock pot more, eat healthier meals, and have a better plan so that we are not deciding at 5:30pm what we are having for dinner that night.
Meal Planning Success
To help with this process, I recently took a Free Meal Planning Class offered by Nicole McDonald at the Millard Public Library. She suggested starting with a dinner theme for each day of the week by type of food (Mexican, Italian, etc.), main ingredient, or cooking method (crock pot, oven, grill, etc.), and then filling out a week’s meal plan based on meals we already cook. It was amazing how many meals in different ‘categories’ I could fill up (especially since it feels like all we eat is chicken and pasta!).
I loved how Nicole made it personal, encouraging us to do what works with our families, schedules, and tastes. She recommended adding a new recipe a couple times a month, and doubling or tripling recipes, freezing the leftover portions for quick meals at a later date. Favorite recipes, websites and tips were also shared by others in the class.
Since taking this class, I am proud to say we have prepared several tasty home-cooked meals, created a meal plan for the week ahead, and have collected some fun and easy recipes on Pinterest. [Right now, you can get the Slow Cooker 101 E-Book with 101 Great Recipes for Free on Amazon!] I also plan to laminate a meal planning chart (such as the one from Nicole’s class, or a printable one here or here), add magnets to the back or post it on our bulletin board in our pantry, and then reuse it weekly to plan our meals.
You can discover many more helpful tips in Nicole’s meal planning class, or in one of her other popular coupon and freebies classes. They are offered at local libraries (for free!), and at Community Colleges and local Moms groups. See her upcoming schedule of classes here. She also blogs at Mom Saves Money, sharing coupons, freebies, and deals. Thank you, Nicole, for offering this class and giving me the encouragement and tips to successfully plan our meals. I hope this is one resolution I can keep!
What are your best meal planning tips? Please share in the comments below!
CC image courtesy of Janine