Meal Planning Monday ~ My Best Time-Saving Tips

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

My schedule has been absolutely CRAZY this month!  I’ve got lots of great things going on, like teaching Financial Peace University at my church (a nine-week class) and attending the Referral Institute once a week (a year-long program) to work on growing my business.  Not to mention coaching appointments, lunch with friends, Chamber of Commerce meetings, doctor’s appointments, painting classes, cookie-baking sessions with my mom and niece, and so on.  I’m sure your schedule is just as crazy as mine – especially if you’ve got kids!  In order to stick to my meal plan, I’ve got to pull out my bag of tricks and use my best time saving tips… And, of course, share them with you!

Prep Work ~ Whenever I’ve got little snatches of extra time, I’ll use that for prep work for a future meal.  For example, while I’m keeping an eye on Sunday’s chili dinner simmering on the stovetop, I can start chopping carrots, celery, and onions for Monday’s beef stew.  I’ll just put the chopped veggies in a Tupperware container in the fridge, so that when I go to throw everything in the crock pot Monday morning, the prep work is already finished.  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I might assemble everything in the crockpot on Sunday night and put the whole thing in the fridge.   That way on Monday morning, all I have to do is put the crock into the base and plug it in!  I also wash and cut up fruit and veggies and put them in bowls or containers in the fridge.  This makes it easy for me to toss healthy things in my husband’s lunch box or just to have to a quick snack.  Sometimes I will cook meat in bulk – like ground turkey or chicken breasts – in advance so I’ll have it to toss into pasta sauce or a casserole on busy days to cut my cooking time.

Double Time ~ One of my best time saving tools is cooking double or triple batches of recipes and freezing leftovers.  Right now, I have Eggplant Rollitini, taco soup, turkey chili, chicken soup, pumpkin bread, two different kinds of pancakes, and zucchini chocolate chip muffins in the freezer.  Think about it – it doesn’t take twice as long to make a double batch of chili or banana bread.  It takes a miniscule amount time and effort up front to do this.  I love doing this because I only have to do dishes once but have two or more meals.  Last year, I stopped buying frozen dinners and canned soups, mainly because of the sodium.  It’s pretty easy to freeze leftovers into “homemade frozen dinners” and put soup into individual containers and freeze it.  It’s probably going to be cheaper, healthier, and tastier, too!

Know What You’ve Got ~ Don’t waste the time and effort you’ve expended to cook and prep ahead by not knowing what’s in your freezer!  I always consult my Freezer Inventory sheet, which is hanging on my fridge, when I’m putting together my Meal Plan.   You can download my template for free, along with a Meal Planning Calendar.  Before I do my weekly grocery shopping, I make sure to check both my inventory sheet and my meal planning calendar so I can add missing ingredients to my shopping list.  This way I don’t forget anything or don’t accidently buy something that I already have five or six of on hand.

Here are some of my best blog posts with great recipes for batch cooking and make-ahead meals to make your busy life easier!

Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ll have to remember to make bigger batches of stuff to freeze!

  2. Dee says:

    I really need to meal plan! It would help me out so much. Great tips!

  3. Meal planning is very helpful for busy moms. I have been trying to get more into it.

  4. LOVE these tips. I am busier than ever these days and can use all the help I can get. Right now I am hating dinnertime! LOL

  5. I do meal planning, as well. The thing I mess up on the most is knowing what I have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased something, only to realize there are two on the shelf. Sigh.

  6. These are all really good tips! I need to start being more proactive about cooking doubles and freezing the second batch! It would really come in handy! Thanks for the reminder to get my act together! :)

  7. you’re so right. I spend way too much at the grocery store because I don’t plan ahead and make a menu plan and buy accordingly.

  8. Pam says:

    Thank you for the tips. I need to do this. Would make my life so much easier!

  9. Shauna says:

    I am horrible at meal planning. The most I do is set up about 10-15 crock pot meals in the freezer so that I can grab them in the mornings, HA! Thanks for the post and tips

  10. Such great ideas- thanks for sharing!

  11. Jennifer B says:

    These are such great, time saving tips! Meal planning is one of the best ways to save time and money.

  12. I definitely try to do all of the prep work I can on the weekends to make weeknight meals much faster. Great tips.

  13. brett says:

    i need a freezer inventory sheet badly. wishing we got an upright instead of a chest freezer

  14. You always inspire me to want to cook up a storm! I have two freezers loaded with meats to cook, and hopefully return as complete meals!

  15. I love to plan my meals, always such a time saver and I loved your tips.. always check what’s on hand.. sometimes that’s easily forgotten.. thanks for sharing.. Happy Cooking

  16. Malia says:

    I really want to start meal planning, would make life so much easier.

  17. Dawn Lopez says:

    Getting more organized with meal planning is one of those things I’ve been wanting to do forever now! Thanks for sharing this and all the additional links and resources.. very motivating!

  18. Dawn says:

    I love cooking double and triple batches and freezing more for later. I need to make that a habit.

  19. Great tips, thanks for sharing! I need to get better at prepping for sure!

  20. Great tips! Makes meal planning so easy :)

  21. My schedule is insane right now too!

  22. I like the idea of a freezer inventory sheet. I could do one with a dry erase market, a sheet of looselaf paper and a sheet protector. Mmm. what a great idea.

  23. I think the most important tip I picked up here is to keep track of what’s in my freezer, something I have been horrible about and am constantly losing things to freezer burn because of it. :(

  24. A freezer inventory sheet is a great idea! I’m going to make one today!