5 Meal Planning Mistakes That Are Causing You to Fail


Meal prep seems like a no-brainer: You write down what you’re going to eat, make a shopping list, go to the store and, um, make the food美女视频黄频大全视频. In the process, you consume less junk, save money, and vastly increase your family’s chances of sitting down to dinner together.

As a mom of two, an inveterate list-maker, and a lover of cooking blogs, I should be amazing at meal planning. And I have been really good in the past—for about 10 days at a time. But without fail, the wheels would come off during particularly busy weeks, or when I decided I just couldn’t stomach the chili I had planned for Wednesday. My best intentions devolved into a flurry of takeout and organic frozen pizzas until, a couple of weeks later, I vowed yet again to become a perfect planner.

美女视频黄频大全视频Luckily, I’ve gotten a bit better this year, after a lot of trial and error. Turns out I was just trying too hard. If you’re similarly overwhelmed by the effort of creating healthy meals every night, the secret lies in figuring out how to be flexible and “good enough” instead of perfect. Here are five mistakes I needed to break in order to nail meal planning once and for all.


Meal planning calendar

I’ve tried every approach, from scribbling everything in a notebook to using apps like MealBoard, which generate a grocery list based on the recipes you enter. Here’s the secret: They all work. But as with any lifestyle change, the only thing that matters at the beginning is consistency. I realized that by constantly switching my system, I wasn’t letting any of them solidify into a routine.

Research has shown that it takes a habit far longer than we think to stick: A professor found that it took a whopping (and depressing) 66 days before a new behavior became more or less automatic. And as , author of bestseller Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives美女视频黄频大全视频, points out, convenience is key to getting over that mastery hump.

美女视频黄频大全视频So at the beginning of the year, I decided to go back to basics and write everything out on computer paper that can be posted on the fridge. One sheet was devoted to meals, a second to my shopping list for the week. I committed to doing this for two months, until it became second-nature. By the end of February, after forgetting my shopping list one too many times, I realized I wanted to switch over to an app. By that point, though, the basic habit was ingrained.


Every Saturday, I’d sit down with my computer and a stack of cookbooks, prepared to discover delicious new ways to feed my family. Two hours later, I’d be deep down a Pinterest black hole with no clear plan. These days, I stick to a tried-and-true rotation of about 12 meals. I always slot the simplest one for Monday nights, as everyone eases back into the week. Like with exercise, it helps to have a manageable goal (I’ll walk 10,000 steps on a busy day, rather than promising to wake up at 5 a.m. for a killer bootcamp). And once I get that first dinner of the week on the table, I find it’s far easier to keep going.


Woman preparing dinner in the kitchen

In the perfect world that exists only in my head, I would run to the grocery store before lunch on Sunday and then spend four hours chopping veggies (with my just-sharpened knives) and portioning everything into (BPA-free, glass) containers labeled by the day of the week.

In reality, the chances I will devote an entire precious day off to food prep are approximately nil. And that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’ve realized the key is to doing just enough prep work that I’m not starting from zero at 5:30 every night. Yep, that might mean chopping a couple of onions on Sunday, but it can also mean simply pulling out the nonperishable ingredients I’ll need or washing a head of lettuce before I run out the door in the morning.


With all due respect to Taco Tuesday, having meals spelled out for every single night made me feel like a prisoner to my routine—which, of course, led to rebelling and heading to Chipotle. At the same time, though, a week of entirely uncharted food menus leaves me feeling adrift and overwhelmed. These days, I stick instead to . I assign a theme to each weeknight, generally devoting winter Mondays to “slow-cooker night” (because it’s the easiest) and Thursdays to leftovers. In between, we might have a casserole night, a “kitchen-sink salad” night, a fish night, and so forth.


Woman reading a recipe on a tablet

For the longest time, I turned up my nose at meal planning services. In my stubborn mind, I was going to do it myself, or not at all. This all-or-nothing mentality, of course, is the enemy of creating good habits. After trying out , I found the service not only holds me accountable, but it also provides fun inspiration that makes me actually look forward to meal-prepping.

Here’s how it works (and I promise, they're not paying me to say this): For $6 to $8 a month, you can access the site’s weekly meal plan, updated on Thursdays. (I’ve played around with the vegetarian, paleo, and gluten-free options.) Cook Smarts creates your grocery list based on your choices and serving sizes, tells you how to prep ahead of time and—amazingly—offers videos that take you step-by-step through each recipe. The site also has a million tutorials about everything from the basic pots and pans you should own to how to eat healthily with kids. With its encouragement, I’ve found myself expanding my cooking repertoire and learning how to chop fennel. At less than the cost of a Netflix subscription, that’s a win in my book.

Wayfair Is Offering Up to 65 Percent Off Air Conditioners, Robot Vacuums, and Other Appliances for a Limited Time


is a one-stop online shop for just about anything you could ever need for your home, and this year, the company is getting a jump on Memorial Day sales by taking up to major appliances from now until May 28. Here, shoppers will find discounts on everything from to . These savings won't last forever, so to help you get started on your shopping, we pulled together some of our favorite deals, which you can check out below.

Small Kitchen Appliances

A KitchenAid blender.

- KitchenAid Artisan Series 10-Speed 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with a Dough Hook & Other Accessories (Save $209)
- GoWISE USA 5.5-Liter Eight-in-One Electric Air Fryer ($122)
- Keurig K-Classic, Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker, 6 to 10oz Brew Sizes (Save $21)
- GoWISE USA Electric Pressure Cooker (Save $10)
- KitchenAid Ultra Power Five-Speed Hand Mixer (Save $36)

Air Conditioners

- Pioneer MiniSplit 12,000 BTU Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner with Heater and Remote (Save $150)
- Black + Decker 6000 BTU Energy Star Window Air Conditioner with Remote (Save $67)
- Whynter 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote (Save $122)
- Della 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Heater and Remote (Save $45)

Mini Refrigerators

A mini fridge that's available on Wayfair.

- Daewoo 4.4-Cubic-Foot Freestanding Mini Fridge (Save $184)
- Galanz 3.1-Cubic-Foot Retro Freestanding Mini Fridge with Freezer (Save $66)
- NewAir 20-Bottle Wine and Beverage Refrigerator (Save $50)
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Fans and Air Purifiers

- Holmes Harmony Room HEPA Air Purifier (Save $121)
- Vornado 14-Inch Floor Fan (Save $31)
- NewAir 18-Inch Oscillating Standing Fan (Save $18)
- Winix HR900 Ultimate Pet Air Purifier with True HEPA Filter (Save $120)


- GE Appliances 36-Inch Energy Star French Door Refrigerator (Save $210)
- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Smart Refrigerator with FlexZone Drawer (Save $501)
- GE Appliances 28-Inch Energy Star Refrigerator with Sliding Deli Drawer (Save $69)
- Chambers 9.9-Cubic-Foot Refrigerator (Save $159)

Washing Machines and Dryers

- Samsung 4.5-Cubic-Foot Top-Load Washer with Self Clean (Save $171)
- GE Appliances 7.2-Cubic-Foot Electric Dryer with Aluminized Alloy Drum (Save $60)
- Samsung 5-Cubic-Foot Top-Load Washer and 7.4-Cubic-Foot Electric Dryer (Save $92)
- GE Appliances 4.8-Cubic-Foot Energy Star High Efficiency Top-Load Washer with Tide Pods Dispenser (Save $86)


- GE Appliances 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range (Save $48)
美女视频黄频大全视频 - GE Appliances 30-Inch Slide-in Gas Range with Griddle (Save $150)


A bObsweep vacuum that's available ay Wayfair.

- iRobot Roomba 675 Wi-Fi-Connected Robot Vacuum (Save $30)
- bObsweep PetHair Robotic Vacuum Cleaner with Mop Attachment (Save $426)
- Shark Bagless Upright Vacuum (Save $30)

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

11 Cooking Hacks From Real Chefs to Elevate Your Pasta Dishes

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s one of the easiest and most popular dishes to make at home. Just boil noodles, heat a jar of sauce, and voila美女视频黄频大全视频! What many don’t realize, however, is that with some attention to detail and just a few extra steps, you can take your spaghetti with marinara sauce from serviceable to restaurant-quality. Here are a few tips from the pros.

1. Make your own sauce.

This may not sound like a “hack,” but it’s way easier to do than most people think. All you need are four ingredients, according to celebrity chef : garlic, olive oil, basil, and a large can of whole plum tomatoes—he and others recommend the variety of tomatoes, which derive from the volcanic soil around Naples. (If you’re so inclined, use a salad spinner美女视频黄频大全视频 to rid the tomatoes of their seeds before you get cooking.) Heat six smashed garlic cloves with some olive oil, add in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, adding the basil at the very end.

2. Use a potato masher.

To break down those sauce tomatoes, you could smash them by hand, or use the same wooden spoon you use to stir. (You could also puree them, but most chefs say that’s a no-no.) Or, you could do like Scott Conant of Scarpetta does and use a , which allows for an even consistency while still keeping the sauce thick and flavorful.

3. Use the right amount of water.

美女视频黄频大全视频Using too little water can cause noodles to clump while they’re cooking, according to , son of legendary Italian chef Marcella Hazan. He recommends using six quarts of water for each pound of pasta. When in doubt, use more than you think you’ll need—but not so much that the pot overflows while boiling.

4. Don’t add olive oil.

美女视频黄频大全视频Many believe that adding olive oil to the pasta water will keep the noodles from sticking together. Not true, says renowned chef and cookbook author , who points out that well-cooked pasta should be naturally stick-free. Adding olive oil can also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta, according to , which keeps ingredients separate that should meld together.

5. Salt liberally—and at the right time.

Just a pinch won’t do it, according to Del Posto chef . To truly bring out the flavor of the pasta, add one tablespoon of salt per quart of water. As far as timing goes, wait until the water is boiling, but before you’ve put in the pasta. This allows the salt to infuse the water without affecting the boiling time—because, contrary to what you might have heard, adding salt right when you put the pot on the burner actually increases the time美女视频黄频大全视频 it takes for water to start boiling.

6. Turn off the heat and cover the pot.

美女视频黄频大全视频Rather than boiling the water until the pasta is ready, do what famed chef and cookbook author Mary Ann Esposito : Let the water return to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and wait for seven minutes. “Works beautifully for cuts like spaghetti, ziti, rigatoni and other short cuts of pasta,” Esposito writes. “Saves energy too.”

7. Cook the sauce in a skillet.

Forget using a small pot, or even a saucepan, to heat your sauce. As , a skillet is the way to go, mainly because it cooks evenly, allowing the sauce to thicken quickly. With its flared sides and lighter weight, also lets you toss the pasta and the sauce together.

8. Add a pinch of sugar to your sauce.

A touch of sweetness can help balance out the flavor of your sauce. Brooklyn chef Jen DePalma she always adds a pinch of sugar to her sauce, which tones down the acidity and keeps it from tasting too bitter.

9. Cook the pasta with the sauce.

美女视频黄频大全视频 This might be the most crucial hack of all. As numerous chefs point out, pasta and sauce should be cooked together so that the sauce coats the noodles. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello recommends taking the pasta out of the water four minutes before the cook time listed on the package, transferring it to the sauce skillet and cooking the two until the pasta is al dente. You should only bring your sauce to a boil , then simmer the two until finished.

10. Use the pasta water.

Don’t pour out that water after you’ve transferred the pasta. As Jason Pfeiffer, chef-de-cuisine at Maialino Epicurious, a splash of starchy pasta water on the noodles and sauce will help bind the two together. (You can also use it to make a cocktail美女视频黄频大全视频, if you’re so inclined.)

11. Don’t forget to add the finishing touches.

Chef Ken Arnone adding fresh sliced basil to your sauce five minutes before it’s done cooking. If you’re going more indulgent, do as does and add a tablespoon of butter. After plating, you could go the traditional route with Parmesan cheese. Or, you could follow chef ’s recommendation and add shaved pecorino cheese along with a hint of parsley.