It’s dinnertime on Tuesday night.
You open the refrigerator door, and quickly peer inside.
There’s a lot of food looking back at you, but for some reason, you can’t figure out what to have for dinner…
In this post, I offer a few tips to help you put together a weekly meal plan.
Creating a weekly meal plan means one less thing to worry about during the week.
You can use these steps to prepare meal plans for dinner, lunch, breakfast, or even snacks!
Make a survey of food in your kitchen.
Grab a pen and a notepad, or use your cellphone or tablet, and take note of the ingredients in your kitchen.
Now, you’re not going to write down everything that’s there, you’re just going to write down items that fall into one of these two categories: foods that can be main dishes, and foods that can be side dishes.
Be sure to check your pantry, cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer for potential meal items, and list foodstuffs in their respective categories.
Once you’ve made your list, you can now brainstorm different types of recipes that can prepared with those foods.
Work your way through the main dish food list first, followed by the foods you’ve marked as potential sides.
If you’re experienced in the kitchen, you should have a good idea as to the types of recipes you can prepare with certain ingredients. You might have a couple of old standby recipes that be prepared with items you have on hand.
If you’re new to the kitchen, you could check the index of any cookbooks you own for dish ideas (cookbook indexes often list ingredients), or do a search online for recipe ideas.
If you’re really stumped, you can use a recipe generator like the one at Super Cook (www.supercook.com). Just select or enter ingredients you have at home, and the site will generate a list of recipes that can be made with those ingredients. Pretty nifty, huh?
Be sure to jot down recipe ideas next to each food item.
You should aim to generate seven days’ worth of main courses, as well as at least fourteen different side dishes, if possible.
Prepare meal plan combinations.
Now, it’s time to make meal combinations.
Write down the seven days of the week on a brand new sheet of paper, or start a new section in your notes on your digital device.
Begin by writing down the name of one main dish next to a day of the week. Once you’re done with that, it’s time to mix and match your side dishes with the main dish.
Take as much time as you need to go through preparing your meal combinations.
You may have to go through a process of trial and error to make sure everything is to your liking.
Finalize the meal plan.
Do one last check to make sure everything on your meal plan is in order.
Do you have all the ingredients you need for a recipe? Do side dishes go well with your main dishes? Did you prepare a meal for every day of the week?
You may want to rewrite or retype your final meal plan for the week so everything is legible, and easy to read, at a glance.
Put your plan some place prominent in your kitchen – on your fridge, on a bulletin board, on the back of a cabinet door, or write it down on a chalkboard or dry erase menu board.
Still have a couple of questions when it comes to making a weekly meal plan? Check out these bonus tips:
How to Make a Meal Plan When You Are…
Running low on food?
Think about the meals you’d like to have for the next week. Write down the main dishes, accompanied by sides, and then prepare a shopping list based off of these items.
Back home from a recent trip to the supermarket?
Once you unpack everything, make a note of what you bought, main course items, and sides. You can now spend some time figuring out what combinations of food would go well together. Don’t forget to take into account items you might already have at home in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.
Super-busy the following week at work or school?
Plan several quick-fix meals. You can put together dinner in a flash, instead of spending time in the kitchen making meals from scratch.
Going out to eat/ordering take out food one or more days of the week?
Only prepare a meal plan for the days on which you need to prepare food. Write in, “Eat out,” or “Take out” on those days when you are planning to go out to eat at a restaurant, or ordering take out food.
Short on time and can’t spare a minute to create a meal plan?
Save menu plans you’ve created in past. You can use your plans over and over, week after week, or mix your plans throughout the month.
How about you? Do you make weekly meal plans at home? If not, will you now consider creating a meal plan? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!