Meal Planning 101

For years I heard these glorious tales of the supermom and her meal plan saving the day.  And I kinda thought they were myths.  I had tried meal planning several times and it was a pain for an indecisive person such as myself.  Surely it was easier to wander in the kitchen at 4 o’clock and just pull something out of the fridge for dinner.  Which is what I did for years.  And it drove me CRAZY!

When I started working full-time, I knew that I had to get my life organized.  Otherwise we’d be living off dry cereal and Culver’s butterburgers.  Not good.  So, I went back to the meal planning drawing board.  And this time was different.  For your reading pleasure, here’s some strategies from a former non-meal planner.

  • Start small.  Get a piece of paper and write down 5-7 of your favorite (easy) meals.  The kind that you don’t even need to look at a recipe for.  Then the next time you go to the grocery store, make sure you have the ingredients to make said meals.  Assign a day to each meal.  Booyah.  It’s a meal plan.  After you’ve got the routine down, then add new recipes.  Unless you like eating sloppy joes every week.  Which I actually wouldn’t mind…
  • Make yourself accountable.  I was incapable of meal planning until I started posting weekly plans on the blog.  It helps me to have a routine.  I. Do. It. Every. Monday.
  • Post your meal plan for the world to see.  Or maybe just your family.  Either way it helps to have the information accessible so you can remember to pull ground beef out of the freezer before going to bed.  It’s also helpful if your family has what’s-for-dinner-itis.  Assuming your family can read, of course.  A meal plan can’t save you from your whiny 4 year old.  Sorry.
  • Ready, Set, Cook!  After you’ve written your plan and done your grocery shopping, go the extra mile and print out any recipes you may need.  That way you’re not trying to read a recipe off your iPhone while surrounded by mixing bowls and measuring cups.  I’m still working on this one.  But do as I say, don’t do as I do.
  • Work with what’s on sale.  The ads are always a great place to start your meal plan, but I learned that I do best running about a week (or more) behind the grocery sales.  So, if pork chops are on sale this week, put them on next week’s schedule.  Assuming you have the freezer space.  If not, start your week’s plan on a Wednesday, or a Friday, or whatever works for you.
  • Be flexible.  Life happens and you may not always have time to get the pot roast in the crock pot before running out the door in the morning.  I always try to have one super simple meal planned for the week as an alternate.  Something that doesn’t require any prep cooking or thawing like pasta or salmon croquettes.  Then I know I’ve got a back up plan other than the drive-thru.
  • Avoid burnout.  I like to plan no more than one complicated meal per week.  It gives me the ability to enjoy cooking new recipes, but not slave in the kitchen every night.

I know these aren’t revolutionary concepts, but maybe it will just provide someone with the swift kick they need to get organized and start meal planning.  And you can thank me later.  Or better yet.  Invite me for dinner.  I do love sloppy joes…

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5 Responses to Meal Planning 101

  1. The Table of Promise says:

    I really like this! I live by our meal plan. But invariably I am scatterbrained. I always buy more than I need to :( and I never stick to a certain meal on a certain day of the week.
    I love meals that can be made in 15 minutes or less, so I always have a box of whole wheat pasta in the cupboard and a container of homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer. You know just in case my subway gets held for police activity (happened twice in the last year!) that dinner will still hit the table at 6:45.

    Oh! And some frozen packets of grass fed beef in the freezer too! Buying meat in bulk has been the best way (and cheapest way) for me to know that I always have a protein waiting for me and knowing that I am getting the highest possible grass fed meats.

    I do my meal plans on saturday morning while I make my grocery list. I LOVE grocery shopping. I am such a nerd!

  2. Kristy says:

    I've been a meal planner for a few years now. But lately? I'm on total burnout! :( I can't seem to plan a week to save my life. I think it's because I'm in the mindset that "I HAVE to try something new" and then I just spin my wheels wondering what recipes I should pick

  3. Jen @ Dear Mommy Brain says:

    I know the feeling. That's what spurred me to do the entire month meal plan. That way I can plan for new recipes further in advance. And have something different to look forward to!

    I also love to look at other people's meal plans for ideas. But it's tough since my family has some pretty restrictive tastes right now…

  4. Healthy Mamma says:

    Dear my lucky 100th follower…. 😉
    great tips! would you believe that after 4 kids and many years of grocery shopping meal planning is still difficult for me?! I think it's the fact that my 3 boys are eating as much as 10 normal people!
    Thanks for the great tips!!!

  5. Barb @ A Life in Balance says:

    Funny, I was just posting the other day how meal planning is not my forte, but I can handle the rest of the planning. Thanks for reminding me that it doesn't have to be complicated!