Meal planning: Five tips to organize weeknight dinners

Beat daily dinner drama and make suppertime a family affair with some helpful tips from Canadian meal planning expert, Sandi Richard.

Heather MacMullin 0
Super-fast chili

Super-fast chili

Thinking about dinner can cause considerable stress and waste a lot of time – up to an hour a day. (Some moms even put scrubbing toilets or going for a bikini wax higher on their list of things they’d rather do.)

We spoke to Sandi Richard, meal planning expert, spokesperson for Knorr Canada, bestselling author and Food Network Canada host, who shared some organizational tips to help parents make dinner more of a family affair, and feel less discouraged about planning and preparing dinner.

10 meal planning tips from Sandi Richard

Outline the week ahead

“Just pick five days,” Sandi advises when discussing how many days a week to plan for. Whether it’s Monday through Friday, or Tuesday to Saturday (whatever works best for your schedule), it reduces the pressure and complexity of a seven-day plan, allowing for comfort food and spontaneous dinners out.

Organize a family meeting to discuss likes and dislikes

“It needs to be a family affair,” she stresses, noting the importance that each family member understands that everyone doesn’t like the same things, and that’s okay. By discussing it first during a low-stress time, Sandi explains, you have “an entire family buying into the whole picture.”

One-bite rule

If you have picky eaters at home, Sandi advises adopting the ‘one-bite’ rule. “Texture is generally the problem, rather than taste or flavour. Within two weeks they’re going to get it – they’re not getting off the hook.”

Find your recipes, and fill out ingredient and grocery lists

With your list of preferred foods on hand, looking for ideas won’t be such a shot in the dark. “Write down every ingredient in the recipes” says Richard, as it will also serve as your guideline for what to keep in the fridge, pantry and freezer. Eventually, having these lists, or “Eat Sheets,” will be the guide for your grocery trips, rather than buying based on what you’ve run out of.

Be flexible

Compromising and rule-bending will play a part as you navigate the planning process. Consider breaking old-fashioned rules, suggests Richard, “it doesn’t all have to be on the plate at once, have salad or vegetables first.”

Here are five of our favourite recipe collections to help get you started:

20-minute meals

Soups, stews and slow cooker recipes

10 hearty chili recipes

Best chicken breast recipes

10 easy pasta dishes

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