Fustini's Oils and Vinegars

7 Tips for Effective Meal Planning

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“What should we have for dinner tonight?”

Chances are, you’ve probably asked that question for yourself or for your family at one time or another. While at times we might want a personal chef who will prepare all our meals for us, it’s often left to us or another member in the family to get the dinner on the table.

Getting take-out every night can become costly. Opting for ramen noodles or cereal every night may save you money but can also become boring and unhealthy. In creating a game plan of feeding your family, you need balance, nutrition and to keep your time manageable.

Meal planning can be an easy, effective way to getting that dinner on the table without sacrificing a lot of money or your health. Whether it’s been a goal of yours for a while or you find the thought of having to prep out your meals in advance intimidating, we’re here to help.

First, let’s explore what meal planning actually is and why it’s become so popular.

What Is Meal Planning?

The concept of meal planning is just as the name implies. Rather than getting toward the end of the day and wondering what you should make for dinner, you begin the week with a plan for what you’ll make. For some, this practice comes with a lot of benefits, including:

  • Reduced stress. When your family asks what for dinner is, you have an answer ready for them, rather than scrambling to figure something out. And on those days when you’ve got a lot going on
  • Easing up your schedule. With shopping once for the week and knowing ahead of time what you’ll make, you’ll probably be able to save some time in your day. You won’t be searching for recipes on a daily basis and instead have your plan set to go ahead of time.
  • Saving money. By heading off to the grocery store in one swoop, you won’t be needing to make those regular trips for those one or two ingredients—when you’re also more likely to pick up a splurge item you weren’t planning on.
  • Accommodating any budget. No matter how much you’ve set to spend on groceries, you can make a meal plan that fits your budget.
  • Eating healthier. While it certainly depends on the meals you plan, it may become much more easy to control portions, choose whole ingredients and be intentional about what kinds of foods you feed yourself and family.

With so many benefits, meal planning has become a popular approach to answering that “what’s for dinner?” question. And when you start with delicious ingredients, dinnertime becomes even more exciting.

7 Tips to Make Meal Planning Easy—And Fun!

Ready to get started? You can start small with just a few things or commit yourself to full weekly planning. Here we share seven tips and tricks for developing an easy, effective and even fun meal planning process.

Plan, Plan, Plan

As the name implies, creating a plan that works for you is foundational to getting the benefits of meal planning. Once a week, you take time out of your day to plan. Begin your plan by asking these important questions:

  • What does my week’s schedule looks like? Do you have events or evening meetings to attend? Do your kids have activities you’ll need to accommodate for? Be sure you know who will be around for dinner or what else you have going on so you can move forward effectively.
    What types of dishes do I want to make? Think through dishes and types of foods that you and your family enjoy, and what fresh produce is in season.
  • What recipes do I need to find? Some dishes you may want to whip up without guidance. Others, you want a step-by-step process. Research and save your recipes ahead of time so you’re not scrambling later trying to find out how to make a dish you’ve picked. For a robust collection of delicious and flavorful recipes, check out our recipes section at Fustins.com. You’ll be able to search based on keyword, category or what balsamic or oil you want to incorporate in your dish.
  • What groceries do I need to pick up? Time to go shopping! Use the meal list and recipes you’ve found to craft your shopping list. Be sure to browse through your refrigerator, cupboards and pantries first to know what ingredients you already have on hand. Be sure you bring that list to the store with you or when you order your groceries online.

Setting this plan in place is foundational to effective meal planning. Staying organized and sticking to what you’ve set in place can be the difference between meal planning that’s frustrating or effective.

Allow For Flexibility

Certainly, having a plan for your week’s meals is important. However, as you go about noting recipes for specific days, know that you may need to be flexible. Life happens. It could be a late night at work and you just need to pick up something quick to eat. Or you didn’t have as many noodles as you thought you did. Or a rainstorm makes it difficult to grill outside.

Don’t be afraid to throw some improvisation into your meal planning as well. The point of meal planning is to help you, not cause extra stress. Use your plan as a guide, but know that there will be things that come up during the week and you may need to adjust your plan.

Have Essentials On Hand

Do you find yourself going through the same ingredients every week? Stock up on these things. In this article, we share a list of some of the top things you should have on hand in your pantry. Some of our favorites include various flavors of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars.

Having these basic ingredients at the ready make recipe prep easy, because you always know you’ll have these in your kitchen. When you run out of an ingredient, be sure to replace it quickly. And we know a great place where you can restock your EVOO and vinegars!

Stock Up on Storage Containers

Saving leftovers from dinner the night before can make lunches throughout the week a breeze. Invest in some quality storage containers of different sizes that make it easy to create individual meals for future use. You may even consider doubling a recipe or making extras of your dish so that you’ll be sure to have tasty leftovers in the day(s) to come.

Consider Freezer Meals

Related to meal planning is creating freezer meals. This involves taking dishes that freeze well and making them in bulk. You pull out those aluminum pans and create a batch or two of dishes like chicken bakes, lasagna, chili and so much more.

While stocking up on freezer meals may not be for everyone—especially if you’re short on freezer space—it can be a great way to make dinner time even easier.

Use Fustini’s Meal Kits

Another way to make meal planning easy is by incorporating some ready-to-make meal kits. At Fustini's, you can find specialty meal kits that contain some of the important ingredients you’ll need to whip up a quick and delicious meal. By getting a few other ingredients like meat and fresh veggies, you can enjoy meals like Herb Roasted Vegetables or Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto in a snap.

Stick To It

While meal planning can really take as little as 10-15 minutes every week, it can be difficult to stick to it when life gets chaotic. However, stay committed to this goal you’ve set for yourself. You’ll find that it can bring valuable results in the long run.

Inspire Your Meal Plan with Recipes from Fustini’s

Meal planning can be a highly advantageous practice to get in the habit of. By planning ahead of time, saving leftovers and finding new ways to make meals easier, you can become a meal plan pro.

Ready to start cooking? You’ve got this. And we’re here to help.

Start your meal plan by checking out our large library of recipes. Find everything from soups to seafood to desserts and even drinks! Begin your meal plan path today!

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