Laundry and meal planning- two never-ending chores. Everyone needs clothes to wear and for some reason, everyone also wants to be fed. Three whole times a day!
I’ve been a wife for 14 years, a mother for 12.5 and I’ve lived on my own since I was 18. Yet somehow, at 34, I am only JUST getting the hang of meal planning. Looking back, I’m not 100% sure how my family has survived up to this point.
I’ve tried meal planning subscription services. I purchased menu plans that include shopping lists. For a long time, I just winged it, making it up as I went along.
It started with an image from Pinterest that a friend shared. A single sheet of paper with each day of the week written out and assigned a theme. Then, under that day, a list of meals that fit the theme. It seemed so simple, too simple even. Could this method actually work?
I decided to give it a try. First, I looked at our weekly schedule and made note of the days Scott works and our busy days when extracurricular activities make cooking dinner more difficult. Then I started assigning each day a theme. Mondays became Meaty Mondays because Scott is home in the evenings to eat dinner with us and he is meat and potatoes kind of guy. Tuesdays became Taco Tuesday, because tacos. Wednesdays are by far our most chaotic days so Breakfast for Dinner it is! I continued until each day had a theme, then moved on to the hard part. Coming up with meals for each theme!
As I found a meal our family loves, I added it to the appropriate day. I thought this part of the process would take forever, but once I started moving, it went really quickly. Before long, I had 80 recipes listed out. And not just 80 recipes, but 80 recipes that are tried and true and our family loves to eat. Suddenly, I went from feeling like I made the same 10 things over and over again to feeling like I had a world of options available to me. And if I get the desire to try something new, I look for a recipe that fits the day’s theme and give it a try. If we like it, I add it to our permanent collection… aka, the master list.
After typing up the list, it was time to do the actual planning. While there are plenty of fancy ways to meal plan, I like to keep it simple. Each week I fold a piece of computer paper in half. I list the days of the week down the side of one half. The other half becomes my grocery list. I refer to my master recipe list and select a meal for each day of the week from the appropriate day on the list. Occasionally things get mixed up a little bit based on what’s going on that week, but for the most part, we have stuck to the list for several months straight. We even used my list to help plan meals while staying at my parents’ house for two weeks earlier this summer.
Cecelia, my 12-year-old, loves to cook and there have been several times that she has asked to head up the meal planning for the week. She uses my master list to decide what she wants to cook, makes me a list and I do the shopping. She then cooks all the meals, with a little guidance from me. It’s heavenly!
I realize this method may not work for everyone. And there is most definitely still a lot of work involved in the actual cooking part! But having a central list of all our favorite meals has truly made meal planning and grocery shopping so much easier. I may have even been known to say I enjoy it! Suddenly, one of my most dreaded tasks has become one of the easiest things I do each week. (Especially when I place a grocery order instead of going to the actual store!)
What are your best tips for meal planning? Is it something you enjoy or something you dread?