Quite possibly one of the most dreaded questions of the day, week, month, and year is “what’s for dinner?” For some reason answering this question, particularly if you answer to a crew consisting of more than just yourself, is tedious and exhausting, and maybe even overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way!!! Enter scene: meal planning.
So how does meal planning work? The concept behind meal planning is to schedule out your meals for the week, build your grocery list and *bonus* remove just a couple of choices from your end-of-day decision-fatigued mind. This discussion is focused mostly on dinner, but you can do this for all of your snacks and meals for a week if you are feeling really ambitious. However, for first-timers, consider starting small so you don’t overwhelm yourself and, in an act of frustration, ban meal planning for life.
A really great way to start is to consolidate all your favorite recipes. Recipe stash now in hand, next, look at the time it takes to create any of these recipes and axe anything that takes more time than you can reasonably see yourself spending to make a meal (most likely the food you purchase to prepare that recipe will just go bad – don’t be optimistic here, be realistic). From there, devise a reasonable and flexible schedule. How many days do you have dinner plans for the week? Skip those days. Have a weekly go-to like breakfast for dinner? Skip that night too. Once you have your meals selected, do a quick inventory of your fridge and pantry to see what you already have for your upcoming creations. After that, list any other ingredients you need cause you’re going on a grocery run!
One way to really enhance your meal planning is to look at unique ingredients and try to include recipes that will use them all up. For example, if you are making pesto and will have basil leftover, perhaps you’ll want to incorporate a Caprese salad another night to make sure you use your stash. Or maybe there is a pasta that uses basil that could serve to stop the excess from silently rotting in your fridge. There are no limits to your ability to mix and match and get creative.
While it takes some mental energy, this is a task you can entertain weekly instead of daily and there’s something to be said for that. Further, the more you hone your meal planning skills, the smoother your evenings will be, and no longer will you be haunted by the question of what to eat. You may even find that you are making healthier choices. In the meantime, someone please develop an app that uses algorithms to know what I like to eat, optimizes the food in my fridge along with the selected recipes (that it already knows I like, thanks to said algorithm), and provides an organized grocery list that matches the layout of my local grocer. Too much to ask?