Here’s the deal. I’ve tried meal planning . . . a lot. A lot of different methods, a lot of different ways, and you know what? They were all-consuming, complicated, and I never stuck with them for more than a day. It felt like a full-time job!!!
Some of the big reasons this whole meal planning thing works is it:
- Eliminates Waste
- Saves Time
- Saves Money
- Keeps you from asking the question, “what do I want to eat tonight?” when you’re already starving
- Simplifies Your life
This keeps me from letting zucchini and two tupperware of mysterious leftovers rot in the fridge because I forgot they existed. It keeps me from doubling up on parmesan cheese at the grocery store and forgetting mozzarella. It keeps me from slaughtering my food budget by running to the store half way into dinner because somehow we don’t have $20 worth of ingredients, and it’s really good at helping me remember to thaw out meat the night before so I’m not blow drying it in the afternoon. (I’ve never actually tried blowdrying my meat . . . but it sounds like it might work).
It’s super hard for me to stick to any kind of plan, so if this works for me, I’m sure you’ll kill it.
Here’s my FOUR EASY steps to meal planning for the week WHILE maintaining flexibility.
1. Write Down What Your Week Looks Like
Not the whole week, just your evenings.
For instance, if basketball practice at 5:30, you aren’t going to want your kids eating a la’ gourmet in the back of your mini van. When Elisha and I lead our weekly conference call for our business builders, I know I’m going to want to make something filling and quick. If friends are coming over for dinner, I know to not plan Fettucini because they’re allergic to dairy and gluten, and goodness knows I’m not even planning dinner Friday night because I’m going on a hot date . . . catch my drift?
This is a BIGGIE.
Thirty seconds of jotting down your week sets you up for big time success.
2. Write Down What You Need To Use That Week From Your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry
Notice I said, “write down.”
This is an easy step to skip, but it’s crucial if you want to keep food from going bad. It also gets you creative with meal-ideas! Win-Win.
Case in point: This week I had Greek Pitas, Feta cheese, Spaghetti Sauce, Arugula, and Potatoes that were all going to spoil within the next 7 days. I rarely cook with these ingredients . . . and meals including them would be far from my mind.
3. Brainstorm Meals
Now that you have your guidelines for planning your meals, brainstorm meal ideas! I write down whatever sounds good, easy, etc.
Then, I go on www.allrecipes.com if I need to use a certain ingredient and don’t have a recipe I like. Just type, “swiss cheese” in the search bar, and tons of recipes containing swiss cheese will come up!
4. Pair Meals with Dates
Almost done!! Now, pair your meal ideas with the dates that work best. (I schedule lunches and dinners because Elisha is home for both. If he wasn’t, I’d only schedule dinners, and make Tuna, or bean burritos every day. 😉
For example, I always put my most time-consuming meals on Monday night, because cooking still sounds fun on Monday. I shop Monday morning, so I schedule an easy lunch.
We go to two potluck’s on Sunday, so I grab a pizza for those, or schedule leftovers. (Yes! It’s a great idea to schedule a couple left-over meals into your week!) On Saturday, I’m usually sick of cooking, so I’ll schedule a crock pot roast. I also check to make sure we aren’t having pasta two nights in a row, etc.
I write down my shopping list as I go, and the day after I meal plan, Sunday Night, I go shopping.
Here’s the cool part. You now have 10+ meals that you have ALL the ingredients for, and you can make on the spot!!! You can be flexible! I never have had a week yet where we stuck to the exact plan.
If we have left-overs on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, I now have Wednesday’s lunch I can prep whenever it sounds good. 🙂 I mix and match all the time, but now:
I have no waste!
I only shop once a week! (Total win if you budget.)
I never have to think of what to make. (The hardest part for me.)
I have a creative rotation of meals.
The list goes on.
And seriously, it only takes me 15-20 minutes every Sunday night!
I included the printable PDF’s I made to keep myself organized. I like to tape them in a cupboard in my kitchen, or on the fridge. 🙂
Feel free to download and print!