Be more successful with your meal planning by avoiding these 10 meal planning mistakes. Making a plan each week so you know what’s for dinner will simplify your life, save you money, and take away the stress you probably feel at mealtime. Today I’m sharing these meal planning mistakes so you can avoid them and have more success!
1. Planning Too Many Time Consuming or Difficult Recipes
Sometimes I get excited and ambitious and want to try 3 new-to-me recipes in the same week. I’ve done this before and it has always failed. I’ve learned over the years to try only one new recipe a week. Often I would get overwhelmed because the week was super busy and I didn’t have as much time as I thought or I would worry that we might not enjoy this new recipe. It’s always a good idea to create your meal plan using meals your family LOVES!
2. Forgetting to Review your Calendar
The first thing I do when I meal plan reviewing our calendar. I look for days when we might be out of the house during a mealtime, busy days that will require a quick and easy meal, and events that might warrant a special meal (like a birthday or anniversary).
I also check the weather, if it’s going to be nice outside I try to plan one grilled meal each week so we can enjoy hamburgers, grilled chicken, or hotdogs. Sometimes I pass along this night’s cooking to my husband who usually enjoys cooking on the grill.
3. Checking Your Inventory
I live by my food inventories. I use one for frozen items, one for our pantry items, and I even keep a long-term storage food list. This way I always know what we have on hand to use. I try to base most of my meal around what we have in the freezer or pantry. If you ignore this step you’ll end up spending more money than you need at the grocery store and who wants to do that?!
4. Forgetting to Plan Meat-Free Meals
One of the best ways to save money and eat healthier is to make sure that you’re not planning too many meat-based meals each week. I find that this cuts down on the time I spend cooking as well as keeping our food budget reasonable. Meats are expensive, so if I can make a meal plan with only 3 meat-based meals each week I’m thrilled!
If you’re looking for some meat-free recipe we love a simple rice and beans dinner. We usually top this with fresh tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, avocado, and other toppings. A basic spaghetti with red or Alfredo sauce is a great meat-free option.
You can also try our Healthy Vegetable Quinoa Minestrone Recipe. We also love Curried Lentils – this recipe comes from the More with Less Cookbook that I highly recommend, but you can also find a variation at my friend Rebekah’s website here.
If you need more meat-less meal inspiration, Lydia, from ThriftyFrugalMom.com has a great list of Easy Meatless Meals on her blog.
5. Forgetting About Leftovers
I try to plan a left-over dinner each week. This way we are using what we have and cleaning out the fridge. I really hate wasting food so leftover nights are something I try hard to remember. If your family doesn’t like leftovers you may like my next tip…
6. Forgetting to Repurpose Meals
Repurposing meals is planning to cook foods that can be used in more than one recipe. One of the best examples I have is Rotisserie or Roasted Chicken. I try to plan 2 meals from a whole chicken, so on the first night, we might have roasted chicken, potatoes, and veggies. Later that week we might have Chicken Noodle Soup or a casserole that uses cooked chicken.
I do the same with Taco meat, if there are leftovers after our Tuesday Taco Night, I can make baked potatoes (using the taco meat on top) or a Taco Soup recipe that also uses the meat. There are plenty of “multipurpose” meals. Making sure that you schedule in some of these meals will save you lots of time!
7. Not Having a Backup Meal
You are likely to find yourself having a schedule change or complication in your day and you’re not able to make the planned meal for the night. When this happens it’s important to have a backup plan. Having a super simple recipe with minimal ingredients that is quick to put together is super important.
I have 2 – Rice and Beans (with salsa, sour cream, and any veggies we have on hand.) and a very simple spaghetti and sauce. I always keep rice, beans, pasta, and sauce in our food inventory, so these meals are perfect for when life throws us a curveball. These recipes are super simple, even our teenagers can make dinner if needed.
Some other great go-to easy meals might be Grilled cheese and tomato soup (pre-made or canned), frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, and fries, or a big green salad. Having this meal on hand and ready to go is one important step to creating a meal plan that works!
8. Forgetting to Double Recipes
Doubling recipes that are freezable is one huge perk to meal planning. You don’t have to double every recipe, that would be a bit much, but plan to double some of your favorites throughout the month. I try to always double taco meat, curried lentils, and meatloaf. All of these meals freeze really well and then I can plan to have that meal later in the month and it’s already made for me.
8. Not Asking your Family for Ideas
I did this for years. I would do all the meal planning alone without asking my family what they wanted for dinner. What I found was that they usually wanted really simple meals. For example, they love breakfast for dinner and I always forget to plan it. It’s super fast and inexpensive!
They also might suggest really delicious meals that we haven’t had in a long time. My husband will often offer to make dinner or grill some burgers. When I forget to ask for ideas I’m missing out on these great ideas and they miss the opportunity to be included in this important task. It is also a really great life skill to teach your teens.
9. Not Repeating Meals
Just like asking your family for ideas, repeating meals is often overlooked. I’ve found that our kids actually love having tacos every.single.week. I love to make some kind of curry almost easy week too. This really simplifies the meal planning process and surprisingly no one gets tired of these family favorites. Don’t overthink it, ask your family what they think and make your life easier by repeating meals more often.
I hope that these suggestions help make your meal planning even easier. Maybe you’ll find out that you’ve been over-complicating the meal planning process, it really doesn’t have to be that difficult! If you are looking for more meal planning tips or ideas, be sure to check out my archive of Monthly Meal Plans that I have shared last year.
You may also want to check out my Meal Planning Binder. This has all of my Meal Planning printables included. You can print out the pages or use it digitally on an iPad or Tablet.