These meal planning tools will help you be successful at meal planning for your family.
When you begin meal planning for your family, it’s important to have great tools on hand that keep this task easy and effective. Meal planning should be a way to save time, and most of all help you stick within your grocery budget easily. Adding in a few easy tools to your kitchen will help you to make sure you are staying on task with little frustration.
10 Must-Have Meal Planning Tools
1. A Functional Calendar and a Weekly Meal Planner
This is going to vary for every individual family. You need to check your calendar before you create your meal plan and have some way of posting the weekly family meal plan. You want to make sure that you plan meals that meet your schedule. You may want to make meals in the slow cooker or instant pot on nights you have little time. Some like to use a written or printed calendar with their menu each week. Others prefer to utilize something like a Google Calendar app, or even use a dry erase board to organize their weekly calendar. Whatever you choose, it needs to be functional for you and your family to stay on track. If you create meal plans but never use them, it is a waste of your time and money.
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2. Detailed Lists for Meal Preparation.
If you are doing a large amount of freezer meals for your meal planning, you know you need detailed lists of ingredients. You will also need a detailed list of preparation needs. For each recipe, you’ll be preparing meats and vegetables in different ways. Making a detailed list that tells you how much meat should be chopped, braised, broiled, or grilled can help you to easily and effectively manage your meal plan and save time doing things over and over again. Doing all of a particular type of prep at one time will save you time and frustration in the long term.
You can learn more about turning your favorite recipes into freezer meals here.
3. Quality Knives and Utensils.
Have you ever tried to cut multiple pieces of meat or vegetables with a dull knife? If so, you know how frustrating it can be to manage. Quality utensils are really important for meal planning as they will save you time and frustration. Grabbing a good set of knifes along with a sharpener is a must. You will also want sturdy wooden spoons, spatulas, and a ladle for assembling items, as well as cooking. I am a huge fan of this starter Henckels knife set made in Germany. The knives with the twins logo are higher quality and made in Germany not China.
4. Cutting Boards
I say boards because you really need to have at least one cutting board that is used ideally just for raw meat preparation. Having multiple cutting boards when meal planning will keep things safe, orderly, and sanitary. You want to have one that is used just for vegetables, one for meats, and possibly one clean cutting board to use for cutting things like breads, tortillas, or other items needed in recipes. These cutting boards look neat and even remind you what you are supposed to cut on them.
5. Measuring cups and spoons
If you are doing a large meal planning event, you will definitely need to have measuring cups and spoons on hand. I much prefer glass measuring cups for liquids, but I love my stainless steel cups and spoons for dry ingredients. If you can afford two sets of each, it will be nice to have on hand so you don’t have to worry about washing a lot between uses when preparing multiple meals at once.
6. Food Saver Vacuum Seal Storage System
If freezer meals are a part of your meal planning system, then one tool I highly recommend is a Food Saver. This vacuum sealing system will help keep your meals tasting fresher for longer periods of time. This is important to those who may be taking advantage of meat sales, seasonal produce, or even just want to do a month or longer of meal prep at once. A Food Saver is a great investment that can keep food fresh much longer in your freezer.
7. Freezer Bag Stands
If you prefer to use gallon Ziploc bags for your freezer meal preparation, freezer bag stands are a great investment. These little plastic stands allow you to hold your freezer bags upright while you fill them with ingredients. It keeps them clean and sanitary, and makes it a much faster process of preparation.
8. Crockpot and Instant Pot
Whether you are meal planning for your freezer or just trying to keep up a weekly plan, a Crockpot is an ultimate helper. Being able to toss foods in before you go out for the day and come home to a fully prepared meal is a huge time saver and makes meal planning much more useful to busy families. They are also great for making things like homemade stock, homemade marinara sauce, and even cooking dried beans for use in all of your recipes. This makes your meal planning efforts even healthier and more budget-friendly. I also love my Instant Pot that makes cooking foods very quick and easy. Have an Instant Pot but not sure how to use it? This free Instant Pot Class can help. It even includes a free Instant Potmeal plan!
I recommend at least one large 5-6 quart Crockpot as well as one smaller 3-quart option. They are nice to use for parties and buffets to keep food to temperature, but also great for making side dishes and full meals.
9. Freezer Storage Containers
Another alternative to using freezer bags are quality glass freezer storage containers. I love the Pyrex freezer containers that come in various sizes. They are ideal for stacking in a freezer, and even allow you to build things like casseroles that can be thawed, brought to room temperature, and then put directly into the oven saving you dishes needing to be washed. They can be pricey up front, but in comparison to the other vacuum seal or Ziploc storage bag options, they are cost-effective over the long term.
10. Meal plans that your family will eat
Aside from these tools for meal planning ease, you need to actually have meal plans your family will eat. Meal planning saves a ton of time and money, but not if you are feeding your family foods they won’t enjoy. You can build your own menu plan around family favorites, or invest in some of the many meal plan options online that fit your family needs. It’s not just about having tools in your kitchen, but about having meals that will fit your family and make your meal planning efforts worthwhile. If you are looking for meal plans already made for you, I personally am a huge fan of the Eat at Home Meal Plans. These include 4 different meal plans each week for one low price and they include freezer meals.
These are what I feel are the must-have tools for meal planning. Creating a functional meal plan for your family isn’t as hard as it sounds. It simply includes a bit of time up front and consistency in your daily routine to build a plan everyone will love and you will find saves you time and money in the long run.
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