Meal planning is one of those things that either works for you, or it doesn’t. Some people love to have things planned out, others never actually make what they planned out. Before having a kid, I was the latter. Now, the pressure of needing something on the table by 6 pm (or else we risk delaying bath and bed time) means that I need a plan.
I tried weekly meal planning, but I felt like I was just repeating the same few meals over and over again. I don’t mind redundancy when it comes to meals, but I feel like having a little bit of variety is important. It became overwhelming and time-consuming, until I one day decided to plan out an entire month’s worth of meals. Game. Changer.
1. Make a list of all your meals
Write down everything that you like to make (or maybe someone else in your family likes you to make), and include easy meals. Yes, include the frozen chicken nuggets and grilled cheese if that’s going to be dinner sometimes (no shame). Categorize them so you avoid planning too many chicken dishes in one week, or more than one Italian dish. I think you’ll need at least two week’s worth, but you can always add new things to try.
2. Make your calendar
You can use a print-out month calendar if you’d like, but a simple list of the days works for me. (“M 1, Tu 2”, etc.) I like to mark off the days I won’t be cooking dinner — usually weekends or days when we have an event to go to.
3. Add meals to your calendar
There doesn’t have to be a real method to this, but start adding meals from your list to the calendar. Consider things like “Taco Tuesday” or special holiday meals. As you use a meal, make a mark (dot, tally, x) on your list so you don’t repeat it. Keep in mind if you’re making something that leaves you with a lot of leftovers to leave a day to eat those. Make sure you schedule those easy meals or slow cooker meals on the days you’ll have less time to cook! This process takes me less than 5 minutes once a month, and sometimes I’ll do two or three months at a time.
4. Make your grocery list
Now that you already know what you’re having for dinner this week, making your grocery list is easy. No more wandering the aisles trying to find inspiration or piece together meals, and no last minute attempt at meal planning.
How do you typically meal plan?