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Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

    When you decide to eat a meal out, is it because you are consciously choosing to do so? Or is it because you haven’t the time or ingredients to prepare something at home? If you are like most people, it is probably the latter. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of planning, less than 15 minutes a week, you can cut back on your grocery bills, eat healthier, and feel better. All it takes is a meal planner.

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    Features Of A Meal Planner

    A meal planner is a just a collection of items that will allow you (or any other cooking person) to get a meal on the table with ingredients that are on hand. It will have the following items:

    • A menu plan. A menu plan is what you will eat for the meals in the coming week. It will list out all the dishes that will be prepared so you can check for nutritional balance, and also take into account family schedules.
    • Recipes. The recipes portion of the planner has two purposes: it allows you to assemble the instructions for making a meal in one place, as well as provide a basis for the next portion of the planner.
    • A shopping list. The shopping list is what allows you to have the ingredients on hand to make the meals you have planned. Nothing is worse than to start a recipe and find that you have forgotten to buy a key ingredient. By taking the ingredient list from the recipes, you can ensure you have everything on hand.
    • Reminders. These instructions would allow you to remember to start dishes on time, or pull things from the freezer. If you are planning a slow cooker dinner that takes 8 hours, you need to be reminded to get it started, or dinner won’t be done on time.

    Putting Together A Planner

    I like to keep everything together in one spot. I have assembled a meal planner using basic office supplies which allows me to keep everything in one place (the front of the refrigerator).

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    I fastened a sheet protector to the front of a poly folder. The sheet protector holds the menu plan for two weeks. For each day on the planning sheet I have a spot for any activities that are going on that might affect dinner (early evening meetings, for example); a box for the food plan, including side dishes; and a box with reminders for the next day (such as defrosting meat, or assembling the slow cooker meal for the fridge).

    Inside the folder I have sheet protectors into which I slip the recipes for each day. This makes it easy for me to find my recipes, or to hand everything over to my husband.

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    In the back pocket of the folder I keep the shopping list for the plan, and the shopping list for the next two week period. I add items as the week passes that will need to be purchased during the next shopping trip.

    I clip the entire folder to the front of the fridge using a heavy-duty magnet.

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    Using A Planner

    The first step is to fill out my planning sheet. I list out the days as well as meal-affected events such as meetings, travel and birthdays (for which we eat out). Then I look through my recipes and pick things that fit the schedule and the season. During summer we do a lot of grilling and salads, but I save the labor-intensive food for the weekends.

    At this point I have filled out the menu planner and have a pile of recipes. I record each recipe’s ingredients on a shopping list, then file it in the planner pocket for that day.

    The shopping list is then double-checked against the planner board in our kitchen for things we are out of, and also compared to our pantry ingredients to see if there is anything we already have on hand.

    With a menu planner, we are able to keep our food budget in a good place and only go out to eat when we wish to, rather than because we don’t have our acts together enough to cook. Do you have any tips for meal planning? Share below.

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    Last Updated on July 27, 2020

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    Here’s How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

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    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

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    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

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    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

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    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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