Magnificent Meal Planning

Your meals can be easier and healthier, it just takes a little prep & planning.  By using these simple practices, you’ll be able to save time and money while still making healthy meals for yourself and your family.

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Prep Basics When You Have Time.

I spend Saturday mornings chopping fruits/vegetables, cooking bulk rice/pasta and making healthy snacks for the kids.  Sunday afternoons are usually bread machine baking, Monday meal planning and meal list making.  By using my available free time to plan for the upcoming weeks, I’m able to keep my healthy options organized for my family’s meals.

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Keep Staples on Hand.

Since we purchase items in bulk, when they’re on sale through Price Matching, it’s easier for us to always have enough of the staples. Our family tends to only need to purchase milk, eggs and fresh food on a regular basis–because we’ve purchased and organized the staples well in advance.  I’d suggest keeping 2-4 servings on hand of these items: Pasta & Grains, Butter or cooking oil, beans, dressings & sauces, canned vegetables, chicken & meats (frozen & divided) and cheeses.  When you always have the basics, it’s much easier to prepare meals at a moment’s notice.

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Make a Meal Options List.

When we were first married, my husband Matt and I made a comprehensive list of the main dishes that we liked to eat on a regular basis.  The list has grown over the years as we’ve tried new recipes and discovered new favorites; the value of this list has increased exponentially.  We’re able to vary our meals by rotating options on the list each week.  I’d suggest making a list like this for yourself and posting it inside a kitchen cabinet for easy reference.  Our list is a simple Word document that is divided into categories and alphabetized.  Related recipes are stored in my recipe SparkBook.

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Weekly Meal Idea List.

Each weekend, I survey the items we have available and make a weekly meal list of items we have in stock.  Then I move related items from the deep freeze to the freezer or the fridge for easy access. Our Weekly Meal Idea List gives us a great variety of options, speeds our meal decision time considerably and makes it easier for us to eat healthy all week.  As we make the meals, we mark them off of our list to keep track of what we have left to eat.

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Plan Meals Around Fresh Items.

We purchase fresh items in bulk, because we only buy what is on sale.  As soon as we’ve purchased the items, I make plans of how to best incorporate them into our weekly meals at the peak of their freshness.  For example, with tomatoes.  On day one it might be BLTs (sliced tomatoes), day two might be Capellini Caprese (diced tomatoes), day three might be homemade salsa (chunky diced tomatoes/sauce) and day four would be a stew with tomatoes (stewed tomatoes). By planning our meals around our fresh items, we make the most of the items we have in our kitchen.

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Make Extra & Freeze it.

I save myself time by doubling many of my basic recipes and freezing half of it to use for later.  This gives me the option to make the meals I want on a regular basis, but saves me the prep time.  When you’re going to freeze items, lay liquids flat so they freeze consistently, wrap meats in cling wrap, foil and put in a Ziploc bag.  Wrap potent items double and store like items together to keep your freezer organized.  Label all items with the contents, date and preparation instructions.

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Plan for Lazy Days.

Every Monday, it seems as though I am too tired to make dinner when I come home from work.  When I don’t have a plan, I want to order take-out, which can get expensive and isn’t usually a healthy option.  So instead, I prep my items on the weekend and start the slow cooker before I leave for work.  When we come home on Monday, dinner is ready and waiting.

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