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Meal Planning Tips with the Imperfect Perfectionists

posted Jan 26, 2011, 11:45 AM by Kristin Mastromarino Vander Wiede
Tuesday’s  response to a new series The Imperfect Perfectionist found on Life With Wendy where she is partnering with Kristin ( (a Professional Organizer and owner of The Organized Lifestyle Store, to find a way to manage her time and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day


 Meal planning can turn into an arduous task each week when life gets busy.  Keeping the family happy is important, but falling into the same routine with food preparation can be much easier when you don’t have any more time and energy left.  Making healthy meals can be even more difficult, when ordering a quick pizza for the family takes a just a minute phone call instead of a half hour of prep time in the kitchen.

     I certainly suffer from the same cycle. 

Without proper meal planning each week, I am more likely to grab a quick meal on the road for lunch instead of making a healthy and less expensive meal.   Those parents that spend most nights shuttling children to afterschool activities, lessons and sporting events might find themselves in a similar situation. 
When you are walking in the door starving with no game plan, the quick meal out of a box might be the only alluring option.  Allowing yourself the time to prepare a weekly menu can save a great amount of time and money in the long run.  It is a lot easier than you think.

     There are two things you must inventory first before any effective planning can take place: your food supplies and your calendar.  I first suggest that you inventory what you currently have on your shelves and in your fridge before you even begin to think about planning meals.  Before you spend time and money buying more food for your family, it is important to go shopping in your house first.  More often than not you have enough food in the house to cobble together several meals.  If it will only take a few extra ingredients to use up that half of bag of frozen shrimp you still have in your freezer you will save money and probably have a meal you haven’t tried out in a while.  Also, you will prevent yourself from buying duplicate items that you can’t remember if you have when you are at the store. 

     Glancing at your calendar is the next important step. While this doesn’t seem to have much to do with food, figuring out your family’s schedule for the week before you shop is a critical step in preventing food waste.  If you know that you have plans to go out for dinner on Friday night and that you have a late hockey game scheduled during dinner time on Tuesday that the whole family is going to, you already know that there are two nights no one will even be home to eat dinner.  Why plan for seven nights of meals instead of five?  Also, if you know that everyone will be coming home late two nights this week, it might make sense to cook a meal earlier in the week that will provide healthy leftovers that can be heated up quickly. 

     Now that you know how many days you actually need to cook, and what food you already have on hand, consider taking a quick glance at the grocery store sales and plan your meals based on what the best deals are for the week.  This will help you limit the menu choices, help you get inspired with new ideas each week and save you money in the long run.  Make your shopping list according to the ingredients you will need to cook each meal you have planned and stick to it in the store.  By avoiding the impulse purchases and planning for only what you need your family will waste a lot less food and money at the store.

For menu planning templates click the Tips and Downloads link on my

Kristin Mastromarino is a professional organizer and owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing and The Organized Lifestyle retail store in Guilford, CT.  You can e-mail her your questions at