Meal calendars, a pillar to your meal planning journey, will make grocery shopping and meal prep a breeze. The meals you have been writing down in your journal will come in very handy when creating your meal calendar. (Refer to Tip #2 – Meal Journals) You can plan by the week or by the month and include all of your daily meals or just dinners. If this is your first journey into meal calendars you may want to start with a week at a time so you can tweak and make changes as you find out what does and does not work for your family.
There are lots of calendar templates online that you can download or you can create your own. There are even apps you can use to create your meal planner and populate your shopping list automatically. Don’t worry too much though about finding the perfect calendar, you can always change and update as you go. You can also just write it down in your meal journal notebook.
The first thing to consider is what nights are your busy nights? For those nights you will want to plan quick easy meals like crock pot meals that can be prepped ahead or meals that require very little prep time. Save the big, labor intensive meals for days off! We do not want to try and fit your life around this meal calendar; we want to work the calendar around your busy life. As you are determining which days will have more or less dinner prep time, make notes right on your calendar. If Sunday is your big family meal day and Mondays are busy on the go days, than leftovers can be your friend!
Scheduling your grocery shopping is also an important factor in creating your calendar. If you prefer to go shopping once at the beginning of the week you will need to keep in mind the shelf life of your groceries and schedule meals earlier in the week if the ingredients will not keep. If you plan to shop two or more times throughout the week, than this may not be a factor for you.
Now we will start assigning specific meals to each day. Keep in mind what items you may already have in your fridge/pantry that may need to be used soon. Go through your meal journal and select a recipe for each day of the week. Be aware of any leftovers each meal will create and don’t be afraid to schedule a day just for leftovers. Make sure you choose meals that fit in your available prep time, based on the notes you made earlier. If you have an especially busy day you can even pick a meal that can be prepped the night before! New recipes can be exciting, but don’t schedule too many in one week or you may be overwhelmed with prep time or results that are not ideal.
Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? A whole week (or more) of meals planned so no more “What’s for dinner” days! The only step left is to create your shopping list. Go through each recipe and write down any ingredients you will need. Make sure to check your pantry for items you may already have. If there are items you can buy in bulk and freeze or save for later, make a note. Once you have you list done for the whole week you can even go online to look for coupons and sales on everything you will need, saving even more money!
Find easy meals, Freezer meal workshops, recipes, and more at www.johnhenrys/net. And remember that with our fast UPS shipping you can get your meats for the week delivered to your door in no time! Watch for our next tip “Creating Theme Nights” coming soon!
I have a love affair with kitchen gadgets. My cupboards are full of things to make healthy eating quicker and easier. I often ask myself the question, “Do I need all of these gadgets?” The answer of course, is YES! I don’t want to spend my time dicing up onions when I can use a food processor; I have no idea how to get juice out of celery without my juicer. I make homemade yogurt and fruit leathers for my kiddos with my dehydrator. We drink healthy smoothies every morning from our Vitamix blender. The list could go on and on but I just can’t seem to part with any of them.
One of my favorite gadgets is my Instant Pot (IP)! If you haven’t dove into the world of electric pressure cookers you probably have no idea what an Instant Pot is. I just want to share some of my thoughts on this amazing kitchen gadget that has made dinner time faster at my house.
The Instant pot is an electric pressure cooker that offers 7 appliances in 1, including: a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a rice cooker/porridge maker, a steamer, a sauté pan, a yogurt maker, and a keep warm serving pot. It comes with a stainless steel pot instead of a nonstick pot included with other brands of electric pressure cookers. The IP is very easy to use and can be an awesome idea for those who do not have a lot of kitchen space. My family went to Florida for a vacation and we took our IP with us so that we would be able to make quick and easy meals even while we were away from home.
We eat a lot of Wildtree Freezer Meals at our house. I love the simplicity of making meals ahead of time. I especially love things that go into the crock pot so that I don’t have to think about it. But I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to put my dinner in the crock pot first thing in the morning. So there I am at noon trying to figure out dinner because my roast needs 8-10 hours in the crock pot. What a bummer! That isn’t a problem now that I have an electric pressure cooker. I stick it in the pot, close the lid and press the meat button, 50 minutes shows up and I let it go. When the time is up, I am alerted that the deliciously seasoned roast is about ready. Now I can open the lid and add my carrots and potatoes to the pot, turn it on for 10 more minutes and then dinner is ready to be served. (Just an FYI, boneless skinless chicken breasts are ready to serve in 15 minutes!) I also love making bone broth in the IP, it’s so quick! Instead of a batch of broth taking 24 hours on the stove or in the crock pot, I can make a batch of broth in the IP in 4 hours. This is a huge time saver and because of the “keep warm” feature, I can turn it on before I go to bed and it is ready when I wake up.
The Instant Pot was definitely a good investment for me and my family and I foresee myself using it for years to come.