Meal planning is an awesome way to save time and money, make weeknight dinners easier when you’re overloaded, and even (if you’re lucky) get your kids to eat healthier foods. The problem with meal planning? For me, the biggest one is time. It’s no small feat to select a week’s worth of recipes, build a grocery list, and amble through the grocery store with cranky kids (and sometimes husbands) in tow. Add to that everything else that needs to be done on top of a 40+ hour work week, and let’s be honest – I’m not the likeliest candidate for something as proactive as meal planning.
Even if you’re a veteran meal planner and you’ve got your routine down, there’s always room for improvement, right?
Are meal kits the answer?
One way that many people are upping their dinnertime game is with meal kits. Services like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Home Chef, and many more have made their mark on society in the last 3-5 years. I actually tried this for a few months and really enjoyed my experience with HelloFresh – until I didn’t. This led me to search for a better option for my family.
Meal planning in the 21st Century
I didn’t want to be tied down by the limited menus offered by meal planning services but was also feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going it alone. So, I set out to devise my own system using online tools to help me with the time-consuming and overwhelming stuff. What I put together really, really WORKS!
**Important note: this post is not sponsored by any of the companies or entities mentioned below**
1. The recipe hunt
I use Pinterest to find new recipes I want to try. Following well-known food bloggers and cooking publications is a great way to find quality recipes that have a high success rate. Personally, I recommend Tasty, Iowa Girl Eats, Super Healthy Kids (great if you have picky eaters), and Tastemade.
When I find a recipe that looks interesting but I haven’t had a chance to look at the instructions to determine feasibility, I just save it to a private board to revisit later when I’m on the hunt for something new.
2. Meal planning powerhouse
Once I’ve found a recipe I know I want to make, I’ll import it into the MOST USEFUL APP on my phone. Prepear is an all-in-one recipe book, meal calendar, and grocery list builder. Importing your favorite recipe finds is as simple as copy/pasting the URL and adding any tags you’ll use to find the recipe.
From your recipe collection, Prepear makes it insanely easy to schedule your weekly meals and build a grocery list based on the ingredients in the recipes. It even has a quick-meals feature that allows you to type in something simple like “burgers” or “leftovers” for the nights you’re not feeling up to the whole cooking thing
3. Groceries at your fingertips
After I’ve created my grocery list, I simply hop over to Hy-Vee Aisles Online (or your preferred online grocery store) and fill up my cart. There’s a great post comparing online grocery ordering services in the area here, but I cannot emphasize how much grocery delivery has changed my week. 20 minutes of online shopping that I can stop & start at will vs. 2 hours in a grocery store on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon? It’s a no-brainer. Plus, we have noticed a decrease in our grocery spending by avoiding the inevitable drive-by cart additions that happen when you wander through the aisles all tired and hungry.
If you’ve been thinking about adding meal planning to your weekly routine, this combination of digital tools has made the process quick and simple for my family. The best part is that there’s no commitment if you find it’s not working for you; each of these services is completely free!
Now, tell us – what’s your relationship with meal planning? Do you have any foolproof tips to share with us? Any major bumps you wish you could overcome? Let us know if you’ve used any of the services mentioned in this post to help you plan!
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