MealPlanningSundays are a typical day to wrap up the weekend and start planning for the upcoming week. This includes planning meals for the week so there is no need to spend time during the busy week making meal decisions. Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be as easy as making a list of the desired meals for week on scratch paper. However, it can also be more involved, including browsing the internet for recipes and planning meals based on new trends. Plan for three meals each week, allowing time to eat leftovers or dine out. Here are ten steps to successful meal planning.

1) Purchase a Family Calendar
Use a dry erase board that you can put up anywhere in the kitchen. This can become the calendar that the family can reference about meal plans and schedules. People can add their own ideas to possible meals to help stir conversation and mix things up a bit.

2) Assess Current Inventory
Make use of food that is already on hand. Common kitchen staples like pasta and dried beans can be part of many recipes. This helps to save both time and money.

3) Shop Strategically
Shop on the most convenient and least busy day. Consider the grocery store’s schedule by inquiring when it gets its fresh shipments of perishable foods from vendors.

4) Be Flexible
If asparagus is on the schedule for one night, but there is something else in the store that looks better or more fresh, make a substitution.

5) Have a Go-To Favorite
If there is a certain meal that a family always loves, there is no reason to not keep it in the meal rotation. The ideal family meal is one that pleases everyone, and is easy to make. Ask the family which meals they love, and make them frequently.

6) Cook Perishables First
Cook fresh fish and leafy greens earlier in the week, leaving more shelf-stable staples like pasta and eggs for later in the week. Also, purchase some frozen produce to always have on hand. This will reduce the amount of food waste. Once the supplies of fresh produce run low, dip into the frozen storage.

7) Theme Night
Themed days are a popular thing now. Some of these well-known days include Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Pizza Friday. Having a planned theme for some nights helps provide a general idea to build upon.

8) Prep as Much as Possible on Sunday
Take an hour or two on Sunday to prepare parts of the meals that week that can be made in advance. For example, cut up vegetables, cook beans or grains, or make sauces. It makes weeknight dinners easy to create by already having prepped food.

9) Give Grades
Critique every meal of the week. When something works, keep it in rotation. This will help to build a collection of great meals, making menu planning easier. This will also create a complete collection of family-approved meals that are time-tested.

10) Stick to the Plan
This can be difficult. It may not always be realistic to stick to the meal plan for the week, but in the end it organizes the family’s life in several ways. Things that used to be stressful last minute decisions suddenly become no-brainers. Meal planning is very efficient.