How a Meal Plan Can Speed Up Dinner

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Having a meal plan can help you make dinner more quickly and easily than if you were just trying to figure it out as you go along. It can also help you be less stressed at dinnertime.

french bread pizza on cutting board

It seems that there’s never enough time to do all the things one wants to do in a day, is there? Between work, home, and family responsibilities, meal prep can fall by the wayside.

You know that eating at home is better for your health as well as for your wallet, but, you want quick meals, right? Well, having a meal plan is a step in the right direction.

How a Meal Plan Can Speed Up Dinner

When you’ve got a meal plan all ready to go, you’re able to do a number of things:

open refrigerator

With a meal plan you can avoid decision fatigue.

A: What do you want for dinner?

B: I dunno. What do you want?

Ever had that conversation? It happens to us all.

Or have you ever stood in front of the fridge for an inordinate amount of time, trying to come up with an idea of what to make for dinner.

Both these situations can be annoying on their own, but the annoying factor goes up to 11 when you, your spouse, and/or your child are hungry.

What’s for dinner already?!

Having a meal plan helps you make dinner more quickly because you’re not wasting time hemming and hawing. A decision has already been made.

Or at least narrowed down to one of seven options on a list!

grocery cart with food at store

With a meal plan you can avoid the grocery store at rush hour.

If you have a meal plan, you can make sure you’ve got groceries already in the house. You can plan and shop a few days in advance when it’s most convenient for you.

At worst, you can avoid going to the grocery store at its busiest time, right before dinner, when you may also be hungry and liable to make rash decisions.

Meal plan leads to grocery list leads to shopping — sooner rather than later. All this means dinner can be on the table quicker than it would be if you hadn’t planned or shopped already.

An added bonus is that you’ll save money not making those rash decisions. You can even shop your pantry before you head to the store.

frozen turkey and sausage

With a meal plan you can thaw appropriately.

How many times have you looked into the freezer to find exactly what you needed to make the thing you wanted for dinner only to find out that it was going to take a lot longer to thaw than you thought? Been there, done, that.

A meal plan gives you a head’s up to thaw in an appropriate amount of time so you aren’t tempted to get out a blow torch or an ice pick just to make dinner. You can even plan some¬†freezer meals that you don’t need thaw!

meal planning sheet on the fridge

How do I plan my meal plan for a week?

The basic process for meal planning involves finding recipes you enjoy and collating them in one place. This makes it easy for you to get cooking as well as enables you to get help from other household members.

Then consider where those meals will fit with the activities on your calendar. Are you having a couple busy nights when you need crockpot or instant pot meals? Pair each menu with a day when it will work well.

Next, go through the recipes on your plan and create a grocery list of all the ingredients needed. Be sure to shop your pantry before buying more.

Then get cooking!

But, what if you just want to delegate the meal plan process?

Kitchen Winner Meal Plans logo

Get help with this week’s meal plan!

The Kitchen Winner Meal Plans are designed to help you make dinner quick and easy.

Each week’s plan includes:

  • a week’s lineup of easy, budget-friendly menus
  • all the main dish recipes needed
  • delicious side dish suggestions
  • a grocery list for the week’s ingredients
  • a quick and easy prep checklist so you can do some advance meal prep
  • ideas for what to do with leftovers so you don’t waste a bit

Click here to start your subscription now.

How a Meal Plan Can Speed Up Dinner | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Tastycook says

    While I don’t meal plan as such, I know that by being aware of what we have, I can easily get a meal on the table for us. Let me add that we are both retired so some days at least, there is more time than we ever had when working to prepare our meals.
    Each week I go thru the little over the fridge freezer and see what’s in there. I keep a list on the side of the fridge. I also go thru the fridge and see what’s in there that needs to be used up. (It’s also a good opportunity to get rid of anything we have ignored!!) What’s in the fridge also gets added to the paper list on the fridge. Looking at that, I jot down a few ideas of things that can be made with the ingredients on hand. If the freezer is quite empty, I’ll transfer some stuff from the freezers in the basement.
    That gives me a base to work from. I don’t feel the need to stick to it rigidly. If we happen to be in town and hubby suggests seeing what’s on sale for dinner tonight, that’s fine with me. That way, he has some input to what we eat. If I just ask him what he wants to eat this week – he doesn’t usually have any useful ideas!!!

    As I said, it’s not really meal planning, but knowing what’s readily available and it works for us at this stage of our lives.

  2. Lynne says

    I use the “meals for the week” sheet from your planner. On Saturdays, I take an inventory of what is on hand and build our week’s meals based on that. I post it on the fridge to remind me of what to thaw/prep ahead for the next night’s meal. Plus, it saves me from having to answer “What’s for dinner?” multiple times a day.

    • Karen J says

      I do very much like you, Lynne. On Sundays I go through the freezer and pantry and write down our dinners for the upcoming week and put it on the refrigerator. Then I take our what I’ll need out of the freezer for the first three nights. I love coming home from work, looking at the list, and not having to think. We both love beans and rice so that is our back up plan.

  3. SC Susie says

    I know this may sound weird but sometimes I feel confined when I “over plan” my week (I also feel like a failure when my plan derails by Tuesday…lol) Some folks thrive on structure but this girl likes choices! So to make things “planned but not planned”, I make a very loose list (on a legal pad) of main dishes and a list of sides of items that I have on hand. I also jot a mini grocery list on the side bar if I need anything from the store. Then, I mix and match selections on the list and just cross them off as I use them. I don’t assign days of the week or anything. This list has about 14 days worth of meals. Ahhhh, choices!

    • Donna says

      I do this exact same thing because I like choices and sometimes when I over plan meals, other plans change for the members of my family and the food doesn’t get eaten. I like using a list of about 10 or so meals so I can customize as the week goes along, depending on activities and my own level of energy. It helps me to have an inventory, yet still be flexible and creative!

  4. Katie C. says

    This is the conversation I used to have with my mother when I was a kid – her asking me. My brother and sister would ignore the whole thing. It would make me crazy! She was a teacher and was exhausted (I know that now as an adult). She didn’t really like cooking dinner all the time but she did the shopping. When I finally got out of college and was living at home for a while, I offered to do the shopping and cooking. I had dinner on the table by 5:30 or 6:00 every day. To say she was happy is a huge understatement. I still enjoy meal planning. As you know, it also saves money which is always a plus in my book.

  5. Alice E says

    I’m on the casual side of planning, but try to always take a minute the night before to decide what we will have the next day. I can get the meat out of the freezer to thaw in the frig, or just relax cause it’s leftovers time. I also consider whether I need to start thawing the day after tomorrow if there is a crockpot meal in the near future. Then I take a minute or two while fixing breakfast to be sure I know what is planned. This keeps it flexible and has a little give built in since if something comes up I can push things back a day.

    I usually do have supplies on hand for quick ‘rush’ meals such as pasta salad or mac and cheese in case there isn’t time or energy for a more involved ‘planned’ meal.

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