Food. We need to eat every day, and I hear that feeding the kids should happen often. Suddenly something that seemed just an everyday thing becomes an all-out project, especially if you prepare food for more than just yourself. When you start having to prep meals every day, you begin to feel overwhelmed, you start to get bland and repetitive. I know my meals became a repeat week in and week out. I decided one day that needed to change. I began to meal plan.
Growing up meal planning was not something I knew occurred. I have no idea if my mom had laid out an idea of what she wanted to make each day of the week or if she just decided last minute. The only thing I know for sure was that every Friday was pizza night. My mom seemed to be on to something since the best meal planning methods I found had one common idea, give certain days of the week a theme. For example, Fridays are pizza night. When I started my meal planning I did this. I had days for Mexican, for Pizza, for Pasta, and so forth. Next, I needed meals, and what better way to start than with my family’s favorite meals.
Now to plan. I printed out a weekly calendar and filled in the days, starting with the themed days and then using my list to fill in the rest. After I made my dinner list for the week, I created my shopping list. Then I would go to the store and pick up all my non-perishable and meat items. I would freeze the meat to keep it from going bad before use.
I don’t plan breakfast or lunch for the week. I would love to plan these meals too, but we always seem to be doing last-minute outings or have other schedule changes. Breakfast is all dependent on where we might have to be. Some mornings I will wake early and make homemade cereal or muffins, other mornings the kids just have oats and chocolate chips in milk or a smoothie. I keep my lunches fairly simple as well. I tend to do tortillas, sandwich bread, leftovers, or chicken salad. I love the versatility I get from things like tortillas and bread. We can make quesadillas, tortilla pizzas, grilled cheese, or PB&J.
So, there you have it, entry-level meal planning. I have recently stepped it up a notch. I now meal plan a month in advance. Yes, you read that right a whole month ahead. I follow more or less the same procedure as above, although now that my kids are older, I ask for their input and sometimes tell them they are cooking. The beauty of meal planning so far in advance is that I have a lot of flexibility. I do schedule my meals on certain days each week, but if we are not in the mood for say, pizza on Thursday, I can switch it with Salsa Chicken because I already have everything I need for the meal. I also try and go on one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month purchasing all my non-perishables and meat. This allows me to budget even more precisely and play with our choices each month.
Check out my Resources Page to get a link to a planner I love and the first meal planner I used.