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  • Writer's pictureThe Market

Weekly Meal Planning

Without a doubt, a constant stressor in a lot of our lives is deciding what to make for dinner each night. Sure, it sounds like a piece of cake, until you have to make that cake and realize you’re out of butter.

“That’s okay, cake was an after thought anyway. We have some chicken cutlets we need to use up before they go bad, so I guess we’ll do a family favorite, butter…chicken. That’s right. Okay, well, it’s too late to go to the store, so I guess there’s chicken alfredo, but we only have lasagna noodles. Maybe I can look up a butter substitute online…except we don’t have any of those either. Alright, scratch the chicken. There’s lasagna noodles, we have ground beef, oh wait…that’s in the freezer. That’s going to take forever to thaw. Plus, it’s a five pound and the recipe only calls for three. We’ll just make a bigger dish! Lasagna for a few nights, problem solved! Oh no wait, we left the large casserole dish at the in-laws, and we’re never good about finishing leftovers anyway. Okay, think, think, think. Both the skillets are dirty, by the time those get washed, it’ll be nearly bedtime before supper’s ready. I guess we can just do hot dogs…for the third night in a row. That’s it. We’re ordering pizza!”

Does this sound like you? With work, school, busy schedules, and all the other hectic commitments of life, the time and fuss of a home cooked, nutritious dinner is impossibly exhausting to pull together some days. That’s why planning your weekly meals in advance is an absolute game changer!

Just like the anecdotal butter chicken, you’ll want to come up with a couple reliable favorites that no matter the previous day’s endeavors, will always put a smile on your family’s faces! Take everyone’s preferences into account. Be sure and consider dishes for you and your partner that you’ll not only enjoy making, but actually won’t mind heating up as leftovers the next day at work! Got a couple picky eaters? Compromise and come up with some quick and easy sides to pair with your selections that will appease even the most particular palates! Keep the kids favorites in mind too! If you know they have a big math test coming up, plan ahead to be ready to deploy the perfect comfort food combos to reenergize your little brainiacs and even celebrate a high mark well earned!

If these old faithfuls are becoming a little too reliable, jazz up the menu by trying something new every week! Expand your borders and try recipes that may seem a little exotic at first. Exploring different twists on foods from all around the world is a great way to learn insights from other cultures. Revisit the saved videos and pinned recipes that caught your eye while scrolling through social media to create eye catching meals you can proudly post on your own story! Always eyeing that vegan cheese at the store? Take the plunge and try a different approach to some of your kitchen classics by flipping it into a vegan/vegetarian dish!

Ensure you’ll be able to bake that cake when the inspiration strikes by coming up with a grocery list ahead of time. You’ll save yourself tons of time at the supermarket and you’ll even have a rough estimate to help you budget before you arrive. Think about the layout of your go-to grocer and write out your shopping list in sequential order of the aisles to save yourself even more time! Finally, be sure and check the pantry beforehand. There’s nothing worse than mistaking you have enough of an essential ingredient at home and finding out too late once the oven is already preheated.

Now channel your inner lifestyle influencer and put all of that accumulated Tupperware to use by meal prepping once you’re home from the store. As you’re putting the groceries away, leave out some of the time-consuming ingredients making their way into your next immediate few dishes. If you’re going to be whipping up some butter chicken tonight, go ahead and cook double the amount to save some for chicken tiki marsala later on in the week! Or if you bought a couple five-pound blocks of ground beef, save yourself the trouble of remembering to leave one out the night before by skipping the freezer all together and frying it all up at once to divvy into this week’s upcoming Hamburger Helper, extra-large lasagna when the grandparents visit (and hopefully remember to your casserole dish), and season what’s left for Taco Tuesday!

Naturally, there are going to be days when everyone is just too tuckered out to bother with the intricacies of preparing a proper meal at home. Sometimes our schedules just won’t allow it. It also feels good to go out occasionally. Whether it’s for family game night at the pizza parlor or a romantic dinner alone with your significant other, maybe account for just five or six days-worth of meals at home and use those extra funds for a night on the town or to order a quick take-out when you don’t feel like doing the dishes! Remember, cooking at home doesn’t always have to be stressful. By planning ahead, preparing home cooked meals won’t feel as stressful, you can try something new, and most importantly, have fun doing it!

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