In this series we are discussing kitchen systems that I have put into place in our home that have helped streamline my days and weeks. Check out my why.
If the idea of making a meal plan is scary and daunting, read through my easy step by step guide. When you reach the end, if you are still feeling apprehensive, overwhelmed, or just not about it, have no fear. I’ll be discussing a program in the coming days that I utilize when I just don’t have the energy or brain space to meal plan. Because sometimes, life gets hard. Sometimes you have to pick and choose your priorities. But more on this later.
Set a timer for 5 minutes. Write down every meal that your family loves. This includes tried and true favorites, stuff you can make from memory, and the staples you go back to over and over again. This list can include things like, tacos, spaghetti, pot roast, roast chicken, etc. For bonus points, take a few more minutes and divide this list into easy to reference categories. Chicken, beef, pork, slow cooker, quick fix etc. I know this seems like a lot, but having it organized will make your week to week meal planning that much quicker. Once you have the master list done, you’ll never have to make it again. But feel free to add to it as your family falls in love with new recipes.
Keep this list somewhere handy and accessible.
Take a look at your week. I consider 3 things. My work schedule, extracurricular's, and the weather. Yes the weather!
Do you really want a big pot of chili when it’s 90 degrees? Or if you live somewhere where the weather fluctuates (I’m looking at you Ohio) you may be able to sneak in some grilling meals in a month that typically is not “grilling season". Or, you may be able to make something a bit more cozy if the weather is going to be unseasonably cool when it’s supposed to be warm.
If it’s a crazy night, perhaps that's a good night for leftovers or something extremely quick like quesadillas. If you have to work a little later, that's a good fit for a slow cooker meal. Sunday’s that I am off work, I love being able to make something a little more labor intensive that’s just not realistic during the week.
Take a quick look in your cupboards/fridge/freezer and see what you have in there left from last week. Maybe you totally skipped a meal you planned for (I do this all the time!). See what needs used up. Do you have some leftover meat? Produce? Cheese? Incorporate those into your plan.
Let’s Do this
Once these 3 things are done, it's time to put together your meal plan. Each week it’s my goal for our meal plan to have: 2 leftover nights and 2 new to me recipes. You pick what's important to you. I crave variety in our meals. But if you don’t mind eating the same thing weekly or biweekly, go for it! If your family likes to go out to eat, account for that too. Our meal plan (generically) ends up looking something like this.
- 3 Master List Meals
- 2 New Recipes
- 2 Leftover Nights
This week, it specifically looks like:
- Monday- Leftovers
- Tuesday- Lemon Butter Pork Chops (new) with Brussel Sprouts and Couscous
- Wednesday- Leftovers
- Thursday- Slow Cooker Chili Sauce (master list) for hot dogs with carrot sticks and fruit
- Friday- Mediterranean Pulled Pork ‘Gyros’ (new)
- Saturday- Beef and Vegetable Soup (master list) with garlic cheese bread.
- Sunday- Leftovers
Now it’s time to put your grocery list together.
This method of meal planning has worked best for me, after years of playing around with different ideas. I have tried the Slow Cooker Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday, etc, etc idea. But for us, taking into account our schedule has been the absolute best thing to set us up for success.
Meal plans are not concrete. Life happens. However, they are wonderful game plans. I am a planner by nature. Going into each week at least with a tentative idea brings me an indescribable level of peace and figuring out what's for dinner is one less thing I have to think about every day.