I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned meal planning is a necessary evil. The weeks I don’t create a meal plan everything goes terribly, I’m stuck frantically putting together a meal or staring at my pantry wondering what I could fix in that mess while my kids pull on my shirt saying, “Mommy, what’s for dinner?”. It’s stressful. After
a few a lot of false starts, I’ve figured out how to keep meal planning simple.
My 10 Easy Steps to Keep meal planning simple
In going back to reread this for myself, as I’ve gotten lazy, I wanted to add a few points to what I’d written, so I’ve expanded from 7 points to 10.
1. Know what days you’re busy and you need a quick meal, and what days you can take a long time time (over 30 minutes) to prepare a meal.
My boys have Kung Fu Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I know on those days I need quick meals to throw together right after we get back from Kung Fu.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are the relatively unscheduled days, so I’m free to plan whatever meal I want as long as I remember to look at my meal plan.
Saturday we often have friends over, so I need to plan a meal that can feed lots of people.
2. Pick 1 day a week (at least) that is your crock pot day.
I’ve discovered my Wednesdays go smoother if I plan a crockpot meal. We go from Kung Fu to Small Group for our church in the space of an hour. If I can dish out our food as soon as we get through the door, my life became easy.
3. Plan on a leftover day at least once every two weeks.
For most meals, I have enough food leftover to feed one person another meal. Eventually, my frig is filled up with leftovers and I am left staring at the refrigerator wondering how to fit groceries in. I’ve figured out it’s best to plan a leftover night for the day before trash day, then whatever isn’t eaten can be thrown away leaving you with a nice empty refrigerator.
4. Keep lunch plans simple.
A few years ago I wrote a post about homeschool lunches.
I need to go back and write an updated post (I did: lunches your child can cook) because we’ve changed some of our lunches, but the idea is still valid. Keep to a few simple lunches and you will find life much easier.
5. Collect your recipes in one place.
My recipe collection has evolved over the years. Originally I had several different cookbooks I consulted. Then I put my recipes on index cards that I would pull out to look at from my super cute recipe book.
Now I’m often consulting my online recipe cookbook on Pinterest, where I’m storing our favorites as we make them. Find what works for you. Since I so often plan meals while the kids are playing at a park or somewhere it was easiest to have everything online.
6. Have a quick go to meal you can cook when the day goes wrong
For me it’s usually some form of sausage, noodles and a simple cream sauce. Everyone likes it, and it takes 20 minutes. Make sure this is a meal you can make without paying attention to much. The meal you can make when you’ve got a migraine, the kids are all going crazy and your husband is working late. THAT meal. You’re not worried about perfectly balanced, just getting them fed.
7. Organize your grocery list to make things easier
Last year I used Cornerstone Confession’s planner, and it had a grocery list. I loved how organized it was and how it was laid out. After a few weeks I realized Kathy’s brain works differently than me, and her list didn’t work for me. I still use her meal planner, but I went back to my simple grocery planner. (Oh gosh after rereading my post, I’m thinking I’ve made very little progress in some of the areas I was working on ).
I now organize my grocery list as: produce, meat, grocery, dairy, Sams, and occasionally frozen.
8. On that grocery list organization, first check your pantry for any uncommon items
I’ve bought more cans of condensed milk and not used them than I care to admit, partially because my recipe calls for evaporated milk and I always buy the wrong thing.
But, if I’d looked at my pantry I would have saved that money.
9. As you are meal planning, don’t forget to fill in the days you won’t be cooking.
We all have those days we KNOW we won’t be cooking. Maybe it’s because you are going straight from one activity to another. Or maybe you’re PLANNING to eat out. Regardless watch for those days in your schedule, and write them down, so you don’t sit there part of the way through the day, and wonder why you’re not starting to cook (this is the voice of ADD experience here).
10. Be flexible. Sometimes your meal plan is just going to go horribly wrong
To fully understand look at my comments below.
A peek at my meal planning (just in case you think I’ve got it all together)
This is my meal planning list for October and November, October has random spots missing because I just didn’t get it done, and November is still largely empty. I’m about to sit down and figure out my meal plan for the month. But, here is my complete honesty.
- I don’t think I cooked a single one of the meals I planned for that week. They all got changed because of life changing on me. That was also the week of the funeral, so I’m thinking I get a pass on that one.
- I don’t think I made any of the listed lunches on the day I wrote them down. I bought the bananas to try that sandwich, and then my son ate them all.
- That recipe has been on my to try list for 2 months, I haven’t been trying too hard to make it because I think Jeff won’t like it, but I will.
- I’ve already filled in days I know we have something going on where I won’t be cooking for the month. As you can see there’s a few of them.