A major factor in being able to have #dinnerdoneby9am is having a plan. By taking 30(ish) minutes one day a week to plan, and 1-2 hours one day to shop I head into each week with all of the recipes and food I will need for the week ready to go. This small investment on the front end saves me hours of time staring at a pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner and avoids multiple trips to the store in the same week.

Here are the top things I take into consideration before making a plan;
-What ingredients already on hand need to be used up (produce/ dairy/ meat)?
*Once you know this you can think through recipes you like that use those ingredients and/ or search blogs or pinterest for recipes using those ingredients
-Are we hosting at all this week? If so, do the people we’re hosting have any dislikes/ aversions/ allergies?
-Can I buy any items in bulk and spread them over a few meals? *
-What is in season right now? (These items will be more flavorful, and usually on sale) *

Here are a few strategies I incorporate into our meal plans;
-I plan one breakfast for dinner a week because they are quick, easy and inexpensive
-I plan 1-2 vegetarian meals a week that are quick, easy and inexpensive
-I plan meals with the most delicate ingredients earlier in the week (fresh herbs, mushrooms, meat I don’t want to freeze) using the more sturdy ingredients in later meals (cauliflower, bell peppers, squash, potatoes). The later are the meals that would get pushed to the next week if we end up having a wild card night and not eating a meal I had planned and shopped for.
-I try to have some variety in our meats- usually a beef or pork and a chicken or turkey and often a seafood meal *
-I try to cook different genres- maybe Italian one night, South East Asian another and Middle Eastern or French another *

*I wouldn’t recommend stressing over each of the last 2 considerations and strategies listed if you are new to meal planing. Keep it simple to start with, until it is a habit and then you can always consider more. I have friends who like to keep it easy and do every Tuesday for tacos, or every Friday for pizza or spaghetti. This is a great strategy if you want to keep it simple and if your family doesn’t mind eating the same things regularly.

Being organized also helps save time meal planning. I have several notes on my phone that help me with this (although you could write them in a paper` planner if you prefer). I keep a list called ‘Recipes to try’. Here I record the name of the recipe and the source whether it’s a blog, cookbook, email from a friend etc. I also have a note called ‘Favorite Recipes’. This is a list of 20-30 meals that we already love. On any given week I tend to try 1-2 new recipes and everything else I cook will be things that we already know we like.

Having a routine also helps me with all of this. I meal plan on the same day every week and grocery shop on the same day every week. By building regular, consistent time into my schedule each week these actions become a way of life, after the habit has formed it doesn’t take much thought or effort to keep it going each week.

Start simple and know that before too long it will become second nature to plan your meals, saving you time and money.