Do you feel that planning menus takes too much time or is too complicated? I think people that don’t take the time to make out a meal plan end up causing themselves lots of stress and are more tempted to eat out and spend more money. Just a few minutes of your time can save you hours in the long run. Here’s how to plan a menu without much effort. The key to easy meal planning is all in the recipe.

1. List meals your family likes – Each person should be able to come up with at least a few favorites. If they can’t think of any, just start listing some meals you know they don’t like and they will probably quickly think of some they would rather eat. Or you can just keep a running list of meals your family likes as they come to you.

2. Use the grocery store – Look around the frozen food section in the grocery store to get ideas for meals. It’s tempting to buy all the prepared box meals and frozen meals, but they are loaded with preservatives, sodium and many other things that you don’t want to be putting into your body. Just use this grocery trip for collecting ideas.

3. Create a recipe book – Get a 3 ring binder and a bunch of sheet protectors and extra paper. Go through your recipe file and place your favorites in the sheet protectors. If you have recipe cards, just tape a few of them to a sheet of paper and put them in your binder. This way you will have all your favorite recipes on hand for when you make your meal plan. You can put any other recipes in another file or throw them away. Your recipe book should only contain recipes that you use often that you enjoy cooking and eating.

Then take 10-15 minutes to write out 10-15 meals that you want to fix. Be sure to write down any ingredients you don’t have on hand for those meals. Take that list to the grocery store and then you have all the ingredients you need to make those 10-15 meals. Each day you can choose a meal from your list and when they are all crossed off it is time to go grocery shopping again.

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