Meal Planning 101
1) Prepare Your Menu
This step is often the most fun. I look at a variety of factors when preparing my family's dinner menu for the week. I check our calendar to see if there are any dinners out, what the weather will be like that week, if my husband is swimming in the morning, etc. From there, I pick recipes that are family favorites and search for new recipes if I feel like incorporating something new. I also ask for my husband's input to see if there is anything he would like for dinner during the week. Sometimes the best recipes I've found are because of his suggestions!
1) Write Your Grocery List
While I'm preparing my menu, I will write down specific ingredients that I need for each dish (I do this as I go as I find it saves time). I also write down fruits and veggies we will need for salads and my husbands lunches, any smoothie ingredients that I'll be using for the upcoming week, and any additional odds-and-ends that I need to pick up.
3) Gather Supplies
After I return home from grocery shopping, I start gathering my supplies and preparing the food I will be using. Fruits and veggies are washed in the sink and air dried, and any meat I'm using is set off to the side. I place my chopping board, three sharp knifes (one for meat, and two for fruits and veggies), a large mixing bowl, my recipe book, ziplock bags and my Sharpie marker on my island and get ready to start chopping.
4) Start Preparing Ingredients
The more you practice meal planning the faster this step becomes. I start at the first recipe that I will be using that week. I consult the recipe to see what ingredients I can prepare now and then get down to work. Sometimes there is only one or two ingredients that I can prepare ahead of time, other times I can prepare almost the whole meal. After I chop the ingredient, I label a ziplock bag (with my Sharpie!) with the recipe name and the bag number (if I'm using multiple bags). I continue on with the remaining dinners until I've done the entire week.
After I complete our dinner meal planning, I prepare my husbands lunches for the week. This is incredibly easy since I send salads with my husband every day. I start with a large 'base' salad - field greens, tomatoes, cucumber - and then start dividing them into ziplock containers for the week. After each has been filled, I add additional veggies, meat or cheeses to the salads. Ill usually aim to have two salads with meat (steak or chicken that I may have prepared the week before for a dinner), and the remainder purley veggie based.
My best peice of advice to anyone starting out on a meal planning journey—experiment! Take your time, try different methods of preparation, and enjoy it!