I’m really good at starting things. Not so good at finishing them. Which usually means the week gets off to a great start, but my “go-get-’em” fizzles out by
Thursday Wednesday. That’s why I need a plan. A plan that takes minimal effort and thought so I can rock at keeping my family fed all week long. That’s where meal planning comes in.
When I take the time to plan our meals for the week, I know our week will run smoothly and we’ll have minimal fuss (from mom…) around dinner time. Have you tried meal planning before?
Here are my tips for beginners:
Gather your tools
- Find a meal planning calendar that works for you. I love my May Designs meal planner. My sister uses her Google calendar to plan and store her recipes. Or simply put pen to paper and you’ve got yourself a plan! You can also use this meal planner we shared earlier this week!
- Gather your recipes. Think about the recipes your family loves, the ones you know by heart, or maybe just follow a simple formula: protein + veg + carb. While I don’t do much once-a-month cooking, I find Once a Month Meals to be a great resource for new recipes.
- Know your calendar for the week. Check out your schedule for the week and know what you have coming up. Dinner with grandparents? After school soccer practice? If you’re including lunch in your meal plan, do you have lunch meetings scheduled during the week?
When I’m thinking about my recipes, I like to keep things really simple. Select recipes with overlapping ingredients so you can prep one time. I also don’t even look at recipes with more than 5 or 6 ingredients–that means more $$ at the grocery store and usually more prep time in the kitchen. These rules help me keep our grocery bill low and my sanity in tact!
Do you have food allergies in your family? I know our basic list of allergies and food preferences and try to stick to recipes everyone can eat. Momma’s not a short-order cook here! I have to avoid gluten, but the rest of our family doesn’t. If I make pasta, I make sure to have other items on the menu that night so I can just leave the pasta off my plate and still get a full meal.
What to do with your leftovers? Plan for Friday night to be leftover night! Or use those extra meals for lunches and eliminate the need for additional prep.
It’s time to start filling in the pieces. Fill in your meals on each day: dinner out on Wednesday, Friday night pizza night, means I only need to cook 3 meals during the week, and leftovers are always for lunch for me and my hubby. The kiddo’s lunch alternates based on how much we have left or other kid-friendly fare. I always make sure to add a full Saturday morning breakfast.
When I’ve done a good job of planning out our meals, we all are much happier from eating at home and spending time together. It make our evenings much more predictable.
What are your favorite meal planning tools?