(CNN)Even if you haven't made resolutions this year, you might want to make an exception for meal planning. Think it's impossible? The key lies in finding the style of planning that works best for your family's usual routines and favorite foods.
A personal meal plan can save your sanity this year
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No matter if you're a bunch of picky eaters, trying out a semivegan or other plant-based diet for 2021, or just hoping to be more organized in general: There is a way to make a meal plan that works for you.
Here's how to set up your personal meal plan to suit your family's style and get the habit to stick, and even budget for the night when you just. Cannot. Wash. One. More. Dish.
"The first question you have to ask yourself is: How much do you like cooking?" said Debbie Koenig of Queens, New York, creator of The Family Plan, a weekly meal planning subscription aimed at families.
Your meal plan, while aspirational in some respects, will be most successful if it accurately reflects the reality of your regular schedule and family lifestyle. And for most families — even those with professional cooks in the house — having a freshly prepared meal on the table every single night is not feasible.
Koenig plans week by week, with a "cook once, eat twice" strategy that front-loads the week with meal prep. "I always plan to have bigger cooking episodes on Monday and Tuesday and intentionally make double the amount of certain foods so I have leftovers to play with," she explained.
For example, she roasts two chickens or whole cauliflower heads at once, knowing some will be eaten that night and the rest will go into tacos and soup later in the week. "If you spend some time up front, the rest of the week is much easier," she said.
If even the idea of mapping out multiple ways to use up chicken seems like a big step, not to worry. Start with a dinner plan and work your way up.
"There's no magic bullet that makes somebody disciplined," said Emily Peterson, a chef and culinary instructor in Parsippany, New Jersey, who has been building out her meal planning strategy for five years. Peterson started out meal planning her family's dinners, then ad