Meal Planning 101- Develop a Recipe Criteria

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How many of these questions can you answer yes to:

  • Do you struggle with meal planning?
  • Is meal planning a goal of yours but you still find yourself stumped every night when the clock strikes 6:00 pm?
  • Do you find yourself making meals and wasting lots of ingredients because they were isolated to one recipe?
  • Is saving money on eating out a goal for you in 2011?
  • Is gathering your family around the table important to you?
  • Have you considered that if you can identify the criteria that determines if a recipe is meant for you and your family, this could really make meal planning pretty simple?

Step 1: develop a recipe criteria. Sit down and make your list of things that are deal breakers when it comes to cooking. Make sure you consider your lifestyle and needs. Think about your favorite things to cook. Ask yourself, why are those meals so appealing? Is time an issue? Do you have schedules to work around? Write your list down and from there you can determine your recipe criteria.

Here are the things I ask myself each week when I plan my meals:

1) Is it crockpot-able? (I just made that word up.) At least 50% of the meals I make for my family are those that can be prepared in the crockpot. We have a very busy life with many mouths to feed. To toss it in the crock and come back hours later to a dinner that is done, is amazing to me! Lots of standing and stirring and supervision is not a recipe for a school night, that is for sure!

2) Is the recipe ingredient list common things that I keep on hand? If not, than it is likely going to get expensive and we might as well eat out. Seriously!

3) Is the ingredient list short and to the point? This is huge!

4) Is it relatively quick to make? While all meals do not have to be 30 minutes or less from start to finish, less than an hour is ideal if it is not something cooking in the crockpot. Contrary to popular belief, stay at home mom’s may be home, but that does not mean we have hours on end to stand in our kitchen preparing dinner. For real.

5) If the recipe calls for an ingredient that will parish quickly, like fresh spinach, can I easily find a couple of recipes or dinner ideas to use up that fresh spinach this week? If so, then it is a go.

6) Will my kids eat it? We really do stick to about 20 meals that float through our meal plan each month. We add things here and there. Sure there are times I cook something that is not at the top of my kids’ fan list, but overall my meal plan is based around the foods they like. After all, they are my clientele and empty bellies do not sleep so well.

7) Chicken is pretty much a go at our house. We do like salmon, tilapia, ground beef and pork chops as well, but the majority of my meals are made from chicken.

8) Is it a meal that partners well with simple sides like steamed rice, steamed veggies from the freezer, salad and dinner rolls? We are not fancy here. Read a guest post I did over on Eat at Home about this very topic.

9) Is it a meal that can be pre-assembled and placed in the freezer? This is always a plus. I did a guest post about pre-assembling meals over on Org Junkie you should check out.

10) Casseroles are rockin’ too! As long as there are not 45 steps before getting into the casserole dish, casseroles are welcomed with open arms at my house. They are even better in the winter because it heats your home while you cook, too.

Stay tuned. We’re going to cover meal planning topics this week so you can be a dinner-time -diva in 2011.


  1. Rachael@Lovely Crafty Home says:

    Thanks for the tips! I have been trying over and over again to start meal planning, but since I found your blog maybe I will try again. Will you share something on my new linky party Friday?

  2. Rachael- how exciting that you want to give meal planning another try. If it weren't for meal planning and my crockpot my children would starve or live off McDonald's.

    Let me know if you have any questions as we go along. I am really excited for you.

    I would love to stop by and check out your linky party! 🙂

  3. maleahbliss says:

    Thanks so much for linking up! I am saving this so that I can refer to it for future planning! 🙂

    I hope you'll link up again next week!

  4. Sarah (Sew Very Happy) says:

    I've been considering meal planning for a long time due to the size of our family, but I always get overwhelmed when it comes down to it. I'm definitely going to give it a go now. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I'll be a dinner-time diva in 2011!

    (I'm a new follower and over from the Tute (Yourself) Tuesday linky party at Little Eme.)

  5. This is great, I love this! I'm really into meal planning and getting the most use out of everything. I found your blog over on the WFMW at the 'We are that family" blog. I'll be checking back. 🙂

  6. Yes! I struggle with meal planning! Thanks for sharing on Thrilling Thursday @ Paisley Passions. Hope you stop by again soon 🙂

  7. AllieMakes! says:

    Thank you for more great info! I really will have to give this a try!
    Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

  8. Jessica Hills says:

    Hi! Just wanted to let you know that I featured this today on FTF! Stop by and grab a featured button for your blog if you would like! Thanks for participating in FTF and have a great weekend!

  9. Ashlee @ I'm Topsy Turvy says:

    what a great lesson in meal planning!!! Thanks for linking up to Topsy Turvy Tuesday's!

  10. Noelle @ Mesa AZ Photography says:

    I have been telling my husband for a few months that once the baby came and I stopped working I would do meal plans and make real dinners more often. Well the baby is a month old and I have cooked a few times but not done any planning. I was so excited to find your blog today (through I heart naptime). Thank you so much for sharing tips. I am going to be referring back constantly.

  11. Yeah!! This is exactly what I need!

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