Getting Organized with Meal Planning

As Christmas and New Year’s come and go my goal for the new year is to be more organized. A big part of organization (and frugality) for me is having a dinner plan and using it. Sometimes it can be difficult when the day has been long and crazy to just get dinner on the table without resorting to take-out or PB&J for the umpteenth time, and the novelty of breakfast for dinner wears away fast. The first step for me is to get organized with meal planning. Here are some of my favorite frugal tips, recipes, and meal ideas I use in meal planning.

Meal plans go way beyond “what’s for dinner” to how I am going to plan and execute dinner. From the grocery shopping list to thawing meats or prepping sides, I need to incorporate the plan throughout my day AND evening. I am going to start collecting meal ideas and recipes here as a way to help me AND give you some dinner ideas. Let’s make it our goal this year to get dinner to the table with as little stress as possible and without having to resort to take-out or stress as much.

20 dinner ideas and recipes

Meal Planning and Execution Tips

  • Have a notebook or calendar for your menu planning
  • Plan in line with what is on sale at the grocery stores.
  • If you coupon, make sure to have them organized for maximum value and time management.
  • Stock up when favorite products are on sale.
  • Keep a list handy for adding products too as they get low at home. I am keeping a grocery list at my desk to add on to as the week goes by.
  • Start menu planning 1 – 2 weeks ahead of time.
  • Pull any meat that needs to thaw out of the freezer and put into the fridge before going to bed at night.  (Please do not leave meat on the counter to thaw. Practice food safety.)
  • Prep vegetables at night if the next day is a busy one or have them on the list for prep after breakfast.
  • Utilize the slow cooker for busy days.
  • Have several freezer meals for busy days.
  • Mix simple meals, favorite meals, and more complex special meals.

Getting organized with dinner ideas entree recipes
Dinner/Entree Ideas

Freezer Meals

Another thing that has helped me out in the past is having some easy meals already thrown together in the freezer. This usually requires planning ahead to thaw but if I have the rest of my week planned out incorporating this will get easier. I will add to the calendar to pull it from the freezer with enough time to thaw for the day I need it.  Freezer meals are so rewarding when you have had a long day and enjoy a good meal even with no time to prep.

getting organized dinner ideas freezer meal recipes

Freezer Meal Ideas

Side/Condiment Planning

Sometimes I am quite guilty of getting the entree to the table but failing to take time for the sides. These are days I am grateful for baby carrots and broccoli. Having great side options the family loves and are easy to make, such as the Honey Glazed Carrots, can be a real dinner saver. Adding Melted or brown butter, or fresh squeezed lemon juice to steamed vegetables can change up “plain old veggies” without taking a lot of time. Roasting vegetables can change them up without being time consuming also. When I put a good healthy meal complete with protein, starch and veggies on the table I feel my meal plan was a success. 

getting organized dinner ideas side condiment ideas

Side/Condiment Recipes

 Meal Planning “Helpers”

Sometimes you just run out of new ideas. Here is where I love some of the meal planning sites.  eMeals is my favorite. It does all the work for me. I choose a style of menu and it emails me a menu plan and shopping list.  So easy and 100% delicious.

About 

Heather McCurdy writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond, where she provides easy, affordable recipes for busy families, allowing women to embrace the budget and spend more time with their families without the guilt of needing perfection.

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Comments

  1. says

    Menu planning is awesome! Sometimes I have meals in the freezer but most of the time not. I probably should do better about having an emergency meal or two in there for when the day really doesn’t go as planned.

    • says

      I use my food saver on Sunday after shopping!
      I cook sauce ,sausages,meatballs,rice,pound out chicken and freeze it seperated.
      This leaves time to make my cookies! 🙂

      • says

        I forgot to mention that I have a list of my frozen foods,and use a meal planner
        Best way to use what I already have.
        BEFORE I freeze anything else.

        • says

          Good plan. I need to go through my freezer again and inventory. I haven’t been doing a good job of that. There is nothing worse than having to throw out freezer burned food.

          • says

            I had to throw out a lot from the freezer , the plastic containers get ice in the top..And they are for freezing, and zip .loc freezer bags,I get ice in them also………I’m sure I must do it different. Food Saver has rools,and you can make your own bags,or buy the bags.I like to buy the rolls and cut the size I need.

      • says

        Thank you for sharing your great tips! I really need to get a Food Saver. I have birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. I am thinking the Food Saver is the best option right now, especially as we go into summer, where I preserve as much as I can.

    • says

      My go to is my pounded out and cut up frozen chicken brests,chicken broth,and a vegetable..I cook rice seperate,then add it in our bowls.

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