Food

22 Genius Tips To Help You Cook More On Weeknights

Save money, eat healthy, and organize your kitchen all at once!

1. Menu planning can be as simple as making your fridge into a shopping list and menu planner.

Just add a little chalk paint. See how to do it here. That way no one will need to ask ‘What’s for dinner?”

2. You can also make a cute and simple DIY message-board to keep track of your weekly plan.

See how to make this one here.

3. Use recipe cards to display your upcoming menu for easy access.

 

Then you can pull the cards right out and take them with you to the grocery store as a pre-made list.

Get this menu board here.

4. To see how to make a more complex master meal planning board, and even download tons of kid-friendly recipes, check out this master database by RobbyGirl.

5. Adding sides to your menu ahead of time will help you make even more balanced meals.

 

Meagan at The Homes I Have Made uses these clever code letters to add sides to her magnetic menu board. See how she did it, and more menu planning tips, here.

6. There are lots of streamlined online planning tools to help you organize your meal planning.

Apps like Evernote (free), MealBoard ($3.99) and PepperPlate (free) let you organize all your meal planning right inside their interface, and even import recipes you love from other sites.

7. Try setting up nightly themes to help you come up with ideas.

Taya K of Simply Frugal uses these theme nights when she’s stumped on new ideas.

Some easy theme ideas include:

-Mexican Night
-Pasta Night
-Sandwich Night
-Soup Night
-Beef Night
-Chicken Night
-Casserole Night
-Stir Fry Night
-Breakfast for Dinner
-Scrounge Night (more tips on how to do a scrounge night below!)

8. Create a master list of everyone’s favorite meals.

That way you can mix and match weekly so everyone is happy.

Get this vinyl organizer from Controlling My Chaos here.

9. If you want to get even more organized, color code the meals by difficulty or number of ingredients.

That way you can make easier meals on busier nights of the week.

See how to make this Ultimate DIY Menu Board here.

10. Master the ‘scrounge’ night for when you don’t have time to make a whole meal.

This can come in many forms, including ‘leftover night,’ ‘feed yourself night,’ etc. It’s especially useful towards the end of the week right before you go grocery shopping.

Pro tip: Label all your leftovers so it’s easier for everyone to pick what they want. Get these printable labels here.

11. A great resource for making the most out of whatever is left in your fridge is Recipe Puppy.

Just type in the ingredients you have on hand and it will come up with several recipes! Check it out here.

12. Make extra servings of the most versatile meals to use on leftover night.

To avoid the ‘leftover night glumness,’ learn how to re-invent the meals instead of just reheating.

Some great way to do that are:
-Pizza-fying
- Putting leftovers in a wrap
- Adding leftovers to a salad
- Turning savory leftovers into a delicious breakfast

13. Spend time adding new meals to your repertoire.

Planning meals in advance can start to feel tedious when you’re using the same meals every week. Take time to browse websites or cookbooks for new ideas that will bring excitement back into the planning.

Here are some of our favorite recipe sites:

- Food Gawker (for general food and recipe porn)
- Simple Bites (for kid-friendly recipes)
- Little Leopard Book (for creative takes on old recipes)
- Dinner: A Love Story (for frugal and family-friendly recipes)
- BuzzFeed Food, of course!

14. Use weekly sales to help you pick which meals to make.

If chicken is $1 per pound one week, that’s a great reason to make your favorite chicken dishes! Check your local supermarket circulars for upcoming sales. There are also great apps that help you match your local sales with recipes, like this one on iTunes from Food.com.

15. Pre-cook parts of the meals in advance.

Save time during the week by cooking anything that can be cooked early on one night. Roast chicken, brown ground beef, stew tomato sauce, blanche vegetables and then mix-and-match them in several meals throughout the week.

Learn how to master the art of vegetable blanching here.

16. Once a month, have a “freezer day.”

Many things can be pre-prepped and frozen to use weeks later. Soups, herbs, breadcrumbs, beans, shredded cheese, sauces, and many other ingredients can be frozen to save time.

See a list of what you can freeze here.

17. Make whole meals ahead of time and use them on weeknights when you have less tine.

The Pioneer Woman is the master of the tasty freezer meal. Check out some of her recipes for things that can be made ahead and savored later here.

18. You can even make lots of freezer-ready breakfasts…

 

Pre-make things like pancakes, sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and muffins.

19. …and lunches…

These will thaw out throughout the day before lunch so kids won’t even need to use the microwave. Plus, the frozen sandwich can work as an ice pack for other lunch items.

Get the recipe for these here.

20. …and even desserts!

 

Nothing beats having Nutella Cake or Reese’s Cookies on hand at all times.

21. Keep your pantry stocked.

Nothing’s worse than having everything for your menu except that one crucial item. Having a stocked pantry means you’ll always have something to replace anything that you forgot at the store, and it will make weekly shopping trips that much easier. Check our this post from Life in Grace on what you need in the perfect pantry.

22. Organize your fridge to create ‘food zones.’

Having an organized fridge wil help you save time when you’re cooking, and save you money when things don’t get hidden in the back and go bad. Create food zones like the ‘sandwich zone’ and the ‘leftover zone’ to help keep things easy-to-find.

See how to get a deep clean over at TidyMom.

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