As the head cook here, you'd think that I would have my meal-planning routine dialed in by now. Wrong. Our system at home—writing weekly dinner ideas on a dry-erase board on the refrigerator—is not efficient.

Turns out I'm not alone. No two families plan alike, at least according to an informal office poll I conducted recently. Like you, our editors, cooks, designers, and photographers all plan and shop differently. Some rely on a routine of greatest hits or soon-to-be hits, like the One-Pan Mac 'n' Cheese. Others start by asking their families to dog-ear pages of Cooking Light. And some, like Editor Mallory Brasseale, just plain have their act together (see Mallory's and five more ideas below).

Planning is top of mind this month, as so many of us shift into back-to-school gear. That's also why we created our Good Food Fast guide—because busy cooks need more than a dry-erase board. It takes smart strategies and delicious, family-friendly recipes in order to win the week.

Tell us your meal planning tips in the comments below and share your photos on your Instagram account using #wintheweek by September 15th for a chance to win a gift card worth $100 in groceries. 

Thousands of subscribers are using the Cooking Light Diet as a healthy meal planner, and the tool becomes more personalized and intuitive the more you use it. "My old way (of meal planning) was so hodgepodge," says subscriber Katie Moore, who has lost 14 pounds since she started using the Diet in late February. "We were already trying to eat healthy in my family, but the planning was overwhelming. Now, I log on (to the Diet) on the weekend. It's so fun to go and get your new week of recipes. I use theDiet's shopping list or jot one down. Having the planning done for me is huge."




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