Who wants to figure out dinner when you’d rather figure out your knitting? With these 6 tips, meal planning will be almost a no-brainer
As a knitter, meal planning has been the bane of my existence for years.
That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Let me explain.
I love to knit, and virtually everything in my life revolves around knitting. I’m constantly looking for bits of time in which to knit. I think about what I’m knitting currently and what I’ll knit next. I even have pages in my planner devoted to my knitting projects.
Meal planning has always felt like a distraction from my knitting!
Unfortunately, while meal planning doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s still necessary. I still have a family who insists on having dinner every night. (The nerve!!)
And while take-out, drive-thru, or delivered food is awesome… it can get expensive. And how am I supposed to afford more yarn, needles, and other supplies I need for knitting if I’m spending too much on food?!
Also, too much food from restaurants doesn’t tend to be good for your health. And though knitting exercises your fingers… it doesn’t give much else a workout. (Though I’m hoping to someday be one of those people who can knit on a treadmill or a stationary bike.)
This year I decided I was going to finally get serious about meal planning. I wanted to do so for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Plus, I’ve never been a fan of the panicked feeling I’ve developed over the years, when 4 or, worse, 5 p.m. rolls around and everyone starts wondering what’s for dinner.
(Do you feel me??)
Fortunately, I think I’ve finally found a system that works in my household. With a few tweaks, I think it may well be able to help you, too!
Here they are: my 6 ways to make meal planning as much of a no-brainer as it can possibly be!
Tips for Meal Planning Success
1. Put together a list of at least 10 dinners that everyone in your family likes.
More is better, and if you can stretch that list to 14, even better — because then you can rotate dinners into and out of your weekly plan.
Also, make sure that at least 3 of these meals are super simple. That is, they don’t require recipes or a lot of prep time. This will be essential for evenings in which you barely have time to eat, let alone cook.
2. If you enjoy trying new meals, put together a list of 5 or 6 that you’d like to try.
You can expand this to more recipes if you have adventurous eaters in your household. Me, I have 2 adventurous eaters and 1 1/2 picky eaters. (The “1/2” is my collegiate, whom I need worry about only when she’s at home!) So I go with 5 or 6. And then I promise my picky girl a dessert if she’ll try several bites of the new meal.
Amazingly enough, while I insisted on 3 bites at first, she will now eat an entire (if small) bowl or dish of a new meal. She’s that eager for dessert!
3. Make sure you always have on hand ingredients for quick breakfasts and lunches.
For my family this is easy, because my husband, younger daughter, and I all like cereal. I make sure we have our favorite kinds on hand, along with milk, and we’re all set. Occasionally my husband and I like to have eggs instead, so we keep eggs well stocked too.
My collegiate isn’t a fan of breakfast cereal, so when she’s home, I make sure we have either English muffins or bagels at the ready.
For lunch, my husband and I will eat either leftovers or sandwiches. So I make sure we always have bread and sandwich fixins around. (My younger also likes sandwiches, and she also likes fruit and grain bars and baby carrots. She packs her own lunch as long as I have these staples on hand.)
4. Plan at least a week’s worth of dinners at once.
This is the biggest key to my meal planning endeavors. I actually write down what we’re having for dinner each night right in my planner when I make my plan for the week. This is a great way to ensure that, if you have any activities going on during any given day, you can choose a meal accordingly.
Also, when I write down the dinner plan in my planner, I can easily check last week’s meal roster while I’m planning this week’s. That makes it easier for me to avoid planning the same dinner two weeks in a row.
(I do all my weekly planning either on Saturday or Sunday. I prefer Saturday, but sometimes it gets pushed to Sunday, and that works too.)
5. Go grocery shopping once a week.
If possible, designate one day as “grocery shopping day.” If that’s not possible, at least make sure that you’re shopping for meals far enough in advance that you can make your meal plan last from one week to the next between shopping trips.
Also, by shopping once a week, you can put together your shopping list based on the meal plan you put together for the week.
(You are making a shopping list, right? I can’t recommend making a shopping list highly enough. You can’t meal plan properly without a shopping list.)
6. Grocery pick-up. Seriously, it’s life-changing.
Grocery pickup doesn’t really aid in meal-planning, aside from the mere fact that it makes grocery shopping less time-consuming and annoying. It also helps you stick to your list (no more impulse purchases!), which will help you save money.
I resisted grocery pick-up for literally over a year. That’s how long our local Walmart has offered grocery pickup. The main reason is that I usually do my shopping at Aldi, and normally I go to Walmart only to pick up anything Aldi doesn’t have.
The other reason is that I’m a bit of a control freak. I admittedly wasn’t thrilled with the idea of someone else choosing, say, my produce.
But our Aldi is currently closed for renovations. So recently I decided to give Walmart grocery pickup a try.
Holy COW, you guys! It’s awesome! All I had to do was jump online (you can use their mobile app, too), make my selections, and choose a pickup date and time.
I drove to the store, opened the back of my car, signed for my groceries, and then the helpful gentleman loaded it all up. When he was done, he shut the hatch, and I drove home.
Total time away from home: maybe 15 minutes? I had to wait a few minutes for the person in front of me to get their order. But that’s it!
A few caveats: Walmart’s service is free, but you need to have an order of at least $30 for it to be eligible for pickup.
It’s also possible that your store might run out of something from your order. If this happens, you’ll be alerted via email and within the app, and they’ll offer a substitute. You can either accept the substitute or decline it and have it removed from your order.
(That actually happened to me. They were out of the printer paper I ordered, so they gave me 2 reams of another paper.)
Also, they don’t take cash. You can use only a credit or debit card. I’ve been trying to move to a cash-based lifestyle (aside from utilities and online ordering, of course), so that was kind of a bummer.
One more issue: Walmart doesn’t do same-day pickup. You’ll need to put in your order the day before you pick it up. I didn’t know this at first, and it threw me a little. Now I know, so it won’t throw me again.
Check with your local grocery store to see if they offer pickup! I know Aldis
Ready to start getting dinner plans under control?
And that’s it! That’s how I run my meal-planning now, and it’s helped so much. I no longer dread that 4 to 5 pm “what’s for dinner?” quandary. I save a lot of stress and brain power that I can now devote to knitting.
And I no longer resent my family for their daily demands of food. (Seriously, though. Every. Single. Day. Argh!)
Let me know what you think! Do you find these tips helpful? Do you have any tips of your own that you would add?
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