There’s no, hard fast rule that you HAVE to meal plan, but if you DO, you’ll restore some order to your dinnertime.
Imagine you sit down to eat dinner. Wait! You don’t have anything to eat? Did you plan? As a child of a mom who meal-planned every week my whole life, I never realized that there was any other way to do it! It was such a simple task my mom did each week that I took it for granted when a friend would come over to my house and see my calendar filled with dinners we were going to have and gasped in amazement. I would always reply that I didn’t realize there was another way.
So, here’s what I learned from my mom to make meal planning a cinch!
Have a large wall calendar. This should be a calendar that everyone can see, where you can write in what activity is that night, who has a birthday, or what you’re planning to eat. Hang it in the kitchen, on the wall, in a prominent place where all eye will land on it. Choose one night each week that you will sit down and make this meal plan. It’s best to do it the night before you do your weekly grocery shopping.
Get out your recipe books, pull open Pinterest, or list out five tried-and-true recipes you’ve made that are simple and easy (I’m talking Taco Tuesday, Sloppy Joe’s, any crockpot recipe that you have in your head). Pick something to specifically suit each day. For instance, if I know we have a very limited amount of time to eat and get out the door to an activity, I might plan on making something in the crockpot, or choose the easiest thing I can cook. It’s not about the fanciness; it’s about getting good food into your family and being together.
For nights when we have more time, I try to choose a new recipe, or something that takes longer that everyone loves to eat! It’s not a sin to repeat a meal within the month, but I try to have a new meal each day of the month. However, having a “taco Tuesday” or “meatless Monday” theme can help you with your creativity. You can even have a pizza night where you either get pizza delivered (not ideal, but sometimes necessary) or have everyone help make pizzas, big or small. Keep it simple.
Look through each recipe that you plan and make sure you have enough of each ingredient in your pantry and refrigerator. This seems tedious. It seems like it would take a while, but it will ultimately save you time. You won’t be running to the grocery store at the last minute because you forgot to purchase an ingredient or find yourself going multiple times in the week. If you like to purchase in bulk and have a stocked supply of something, use that as your jumping-off point: make a meal based around that ingredient. Pinterest is really great for this.
You don’t have to stick to the meal scheduled for a given night if you don’t feel like it! It’s okay to swap things out if you’re too tired or if you didn’t have as much time as you thought! I often switch meals because I just don’t feel like making it. Or, something will come up and my husband will surprise us with dinner out. I just bump that meal to the next week.
Meal planning is really simple. It mostly takes consistency and some time spent doing it weekly. Get your kids involved. Ask your family, when you try a new recipe, if this is a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” If they love it, print the recipe (if you got it from Pinterest) and keep it organized inside a page protector in a binder along with other favorites. I have several articles to help you keep your meals planned, including these here.