I think most people can relate when I say that routine can sometimes go out the window during summer. With vacations, summer camps, and friends visiting, our normal schedules get thrown way off, and we don’t always know who we’ll be cooking for each week. Sometimes dinner is a well-planned BBQ, and sometimes it’s a bowl ice cream. But with fall quickly approaching, it’s time to get back into the swing of things and start meal planning again.

If you’re the type of person that often buys too much food because you don’t know what you’ll need that week, meal planning can really cut down on the food waste. It also allows you to buy more fresh ingredients, because you know they’ll be used right away. And it greatly cuts down on the stress of having to decide what to make at the last minute.

Below, I’ve outlined some simple strategies that will help you get ahead of fall meal planning. That way, when the school buses roll in and work heats up, you won’t break a sweat!

Who’s coming to dinner?

The first step is to take a look at your week and decide how many people you’ll be cooking for each night, and then how much time you’ll have to cook. Having a selection of recipes on hand (in a tangible or digital folder) really helps, because you’ll need a variety of meals that don’t take much time but can serve the whole family. Other nights, you’ll be able to take more time and cook more elaborate dishes. It’s all about knowing which meals will work for each night based on your schedule.

What’s in your kitchen?

Take stock of your refrigerator and pantry before you write a grocery list. Try to utilize the seasonings and ingredients you already have. It’s okay to swap out Italian seasoning for oregano or cilantro for parsley. If you have leftovers in the freezer, break them out so you’ll have at least one night off!

What’s in season?

When choosing meals, try to incorporate in-season produce, like squash, pumpkin and apples. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables, so you can get creative. Check out this great site for what’s abundant each month.

Too busy?

Meal planning can seem a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting a new routine or having a hard time getting back into it. That’s why we offer Personal Chef services—to eliminate the stress of planning and make it easier for you to have fresh, healthy meals on the table every night. Visit our Personal Chef page  for more information and to get started!