5 Steps to Stop “What’s for Dinner?”

5 Steps to Meal Prep

“What’s for dinner?” Uugh, that dreaded question—again.

Just what I want to think about after a busy day at work, fighting traffic and realizing that I still haven’t unloaded the dryer. Been there? We all have.

I’m an action-oriental gal. I don’t have time for problems because I’m too busy finding a solution.

Meal planning—or as Tupperware calls it, planovers.

So what’s my solution to an easier everyday? Meal planning—or as Tupperware calls it, planovers. And let me tell you, things are running more smoothly at my house because of it.

Once I decide on my weekly menu, I post it in plain sight. This helps family members make responsible food choices during the day. I certainly can’t eat pasta at every meal. (Hello, bathing suit season. You’re back again so soon?)

And, almost more importantly, posting your menu will prevent people from asking you what’s for dinner. Well maybe not prevent, but if someone does ask simply point to the menu and don’t say a word. You’ll have them trained soon enough.

Planovers require a little work up front but, trust me, by Thursday night you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you followed these five easy steps:

  1. Plan

    Grab your favorite tablet—paper or electronic—and consider:
    How many meals do I need each day? Check your calendar for special events. Make a note of any lunch meetings or other events where you might be eating more or less for lunch. Also consider the types of food you’ll be eating at these events and plan to balance any indulges with healthy food choices at home. Take special care to decide if you’ll be eating dinner out anytime that week—and then do the happy dance if you actually have a night off from dinner duty.
    How many servings for each meal? Consider your family’s schedule and any guests or visitors you may have. While on the matter of schedules, I also consider late arrivals due to practices, group exercise classes, board meetings or Tupperware parties. If I have something like that going on, I know it’s a night for a fully pre-made meal, not just a pre-assembled meal.
    For real? Yes. I also consider the weather. Chili in hot weather? No thanks. And I also consider special TV events. Crazy? Perhaps, but come on, you know buffalo sauce during football season is a must. Don’t even pretend. And Scandal without popcorn? Pssh, please. So, yes, I plan for these things because food should be fun.

  2. Recipes

    Let’s get down to business:
    Use it or lose it. Think about the food you currently have in house. Put it to good use before it spoils by choosing recipes to make use of those items. Remember to shop your freezer for produce you’ve put away for later use. Seize the day meets Seize the Freeze!
    Cha-ching! When thinking about what to eat in the coming week, consider recipes using in-season produce because it’ll typically be cheaper.
    I’ll have none of that. Remember to avoid any food allergies.
    Work your core. Not to sound like a Pilates instructor or anything but you’ll want to use your core—ingredients that is—to make your grocery shopping easier and keep food cost low. Find recipes that use similar ingredients and buy a large portion of that ingredient. This doesn’t mean to eat sour cream three nights in a row; mix it up and use that ingredient at the beginning and end of the week.

  3. Grocery List

    Now that you’ve got an idea of the types of recipes you want on your menu, make your grocery list:
    VIP list. Compare recipe ingredients against what you already have in your pantry. Avoid double purchases—Modular Mates® love! True story: I once went rogue and thought I remembered needing cumin even though it wasn’t on my list. I now own 12 ounces of cumin. I’ll be making my own taco seasoning until kingdom come. Lesson learned!
    It all adds up. Combine ingredient amounts from each recipe so that you buy enough for each dish. Don’t cry over spilled milk, but it’s perfectly acceptable to cry because you’ve run out of milk in a pivotal moment. Have enough for Monday and Friday’s dinner.
    TIP! I organize my list into: Herbs and Flavors; Pantry Items; Produce; Meat, Seafood and Dairy so that my cold items are the last things I put into my shopping basket. Well, besides the go-ahead-and-cheat chocolate bar impulse buy at the checkout. Because, mmmm.
    Coupon queen. If you’re using coupons, snip and collect away. Store them with your grocery list.

  4. Shopping

    Modern day hunting and gathering:
    Get going! Take your list, coupons and your helper—or toddler hellion. Either way, get thee to a grocer.
    TIP! You’ve heard it before but I’ll remind you again. Health pros advocate shopping the ends of the grocery store, where the fresh items are. Limiting pre-packaged foods in the aisles will help keep your health on track.

  5. Food Prep

    Ready yourself for planovers:
    Grouping. Decide which dishes will be pre-made (fully cooked) and which will be pre-assembled (prepped and ready for cooking) and group ingredients accordingly. I prep my pre-assemble dishes first. I figure that since the pre-made items will be cooked soon, they can sit on the counter for a few minutes. Depending on how long your drive home from the grocery store is, you may be able to use the same method.
    Fresh baked first. Make and store baked goods including breads and dinner rolls.
    Manic Monday. Always, always pre-make your Monday night dinner. Mondays are hard enough without kitchen duty.
    Getting dicey. Dice, slice and wedge away. Make the Chop ’N Prep and the Slice ’N Wedge your kitchen BFFs. Store measured, prepped ingredients in containers to seal in freshness. I stack these containers together in the fridge for easy, mindless mixing later in the week. If dry ingredients will be added (spices, etc.), I measure and group those ingredients in my pantry for later use.
    TIP! Pre-assembled meals should typically be eaten earlier in the week because the ingredients will likely be stored raw. Cooked meals can be refrigerated, or frozen, and eaten later in the week. Store in versatile Vent ’N Serve® or CrystalWave® containers.
    Round two. With your pre-assembled meals in the fridge, you’ve cleared valuable counter space to cook your other meals. Ready the UltraPro! Your oven will be pre-heated from baking your bread, so start layering that casserole in those beautiful Cosmos colored oven wonder delights and make magic.
    Spouse-proof. Remember those family members who were asking, “What’s for dinner?” Put their concern for dinner to good use. Place sticky notes with warming instructions on the meal containers. So all they have to do is open the fridge or freezer door and follow the instructions without your being there to supervise.

Voilà! In just a few weekend hours you’ve eliminated stress—remember, let the menu board do the talking for you—and probably saved your family money and calories, too.

Well done!

I’d tell you to take five but you probably need to go check the dryer.

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