I am really a good cook….really I am! But I have lost my mojo since having kids. I just don’t have the energy to be creative in the kitchen every day. And I also have trouble finding the time to meal plan (or go to the grocery store). But I have been working on my meal-planning, meal-making mojo and I am slowly getting it back. And I thought I would give you a list of resources that are my go-to meal planning helpers. These are really the basics (some are actual cookbooks!) ideas that have kickstarted my menu planning.
First, let me say: I am a HUGE fan of make ahead meal planning. I am an even bigger fan if I can do it all in a short amount of time. I think having meals prepped and ready to go into the oven, the slow cooker, the mouth (whatever works, right) is a massive help for me in the middle of the week, at the end of the day, when I have had a day am ready to head to bed and then I realize it is 4 in the afternoon!
1. A menu-planning binder
I recently created my own version of a menu planning binder. I threw in some tabbed dividers from the dollar store and some of my menu planning staples. I have some recipes that I do not want to loose in there. I also have the past menu plans that I never got around to doing – because I am that far behind, I should be able to have a new menu each week for a LONG time. In the front pockets, I have tucked in some paper to jot down my own menu planning ideas. I am constantly working on recipes for this blog or for when friends and family come over. So, I need a place to corral all those ideas.
If you are looking to make your own binder, I found these FREE printables for menu planning that would get you started on the right foot!
2. Robin Miller’s cookbooks
I got Robin Miller’s cook books a while back and I really enjoy her recipes and her easy meal preparation techniques. She has a similar philosophy to me of getting a lot done in a little time. And she has lots of creative ways to change up left-overs. I personally love leftovers, but my husband is not a fan. She has lots of options for making meals as big as you like and then changing them up with any of what you have left over.
3. Pampered Chef cookbooks
I am a serious devotee of Pampered Chef cookbooks, but my absolute go to favorites are 29 Minutes to Dinner and 29 Minutes to Dinner, Volume 2. They are filled with lots of recipes that take less than 30 minutes from start to finish. And they feature ingredients that are easy to work with. Many of their recipes are kid-help friendly, too. I also love to get their twice yearly special cookbooks (they are only a dollar!). Each issue includes dishes from appetizer to dessert that are easy and so tasty!
This was the first meal-planning service I tried and I still very much like their ideas and menu plans. The best part is: you get all the ingredients together, prepare all 5 meals, and then have the week off in terms of worrying about what to make for dinner. There is nothing like having 4-5 meals prepped and ready to go in your fridge at the beginning of the week! The one reservation I have with their recipes is sometimes they are not flavorful enough. Be sure to add salt and pepper to taste and play with seasonings to make them really become family favorites.
Who doesn’t love emeals? They have a TON of options for every type of family (small or big, gluten-free or clean eaters). And they do it on in a budget-friendly way. I use emeals for inspiration on the weeks I have a little more time to work in the kitchen. And I use them as a supplement to the five dinners in an hour I like to have in my fridge at the beginning of the week. emeals gets me through the weekend. Oh, and I usually take one of the meals that I know my husband won’t like and make a it a lunch for my girls – that way I get to use the menu planning and stretch their palates a bit. emeals also offers lunch and breakfast plans, if you need help for those meals too, you can just add them to your choice of dinner menu. We are currently subscribing to the Clean Eating Plan for a family of 4.
Let me just say this is my last stop for menu planning. And it is often where I go for side dishes and desserts, more than dinner ideas. There are millions and millions of ideas there, so there is always fresh inspiration. And I have pinned a bunch of ideas to my Menu Planning board, my Baking, and my Eat!Eat!Eat! boards. Go check them out and give them a follow. You will always have fresh dinner ideas!
What are your go-to menu planning resources?
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This post is shared on: Titus 2 Tuesday