I love meal planning. I’ve tried it dozens of ways. A week at a time, a month at a time, using meal plan services, apps & classes. I’ve ordered at home meal kits like Home Chef and I’ve tried scheduling out my meals each week based on themes (like Meatless Monday and Taco Tuesday…you get the idea). I’ve even tried listing out meals for an entire season and then just plugging those meal ideas into my plan a few weeks at a time. Nothing has stuck for the long-haul, but I have developed a few habits around the topic of meal planning that seem to work for my personality and out family/budget. These days I typically plan 3-4 meals to make, 1-2 leftover nights and 1-2 nights for eating out- if possible. This can vary from week to week- but it’s my basic structure.
Here are my basic habits/tips around meal planning that I try to do:
- Have a PLAN and stick to it loosely. I don’t do well picking the exact meal for the exact day of that week because I’m a moody person and if I’m not in the mood for Tacos that night- don’t make me cook them- please!
- Make room in the plan for C.O.R.N. (Clean Out Refrigerator Night) on the meal plan. I don’t like leftover food- but I also don’t like wasting food and so its just something we do.
- Make room in the plan for Eating-Out. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy eating, but personally I struggle to cook more than 4 or 5 nights a week. At this time our budget is freed up to eat one or two nights a week (sometimes more or less and sometimes we can only afford Little Ceaser’s pizza) but we try to make it work.
- Make room for EASY dinners on nights when we can’t eat out but you just can’t bring yourself to cook either- we also call these KID dinners in our house and they typically consist of things we have in the freezer or pantry (breakfast, nuggets, quesadillas, ramon noodles, I’ve even made popcorn & yogurt a meal)
- Keep a GO-TO MEALS list in my phone. These are the easy meals that have easy ingredients I know by heart and can grab while out and about if I forgot to meal plan that week and just need ingredients for a few nights meals. There are some great Trader Joe’s meals like this and for us breakfast for dinner (brinner), chili & cornbread, chicken w/ a bag salad, tacos, grilled cheese & soup, spaghetti & meat sauce are a few favorites in this category.
- Check the FREEZER & PANTRY before I make the plan for the week. We order meat from a delivery service (currently Butcher Box) and that helps us tremendously. However, it doesn’t help to have food in the freezer and pantry that go un-used and have to be thrown out. So I try to start there as I plan out the other ingredients needed for the meals planned.
- When coming home from vacation I try to order MEAL KITS (like Home Chef) or a GROCERY DELIVERY on the day after we get home so that my meal plan momentum doesn’t totally fall apart.
That’s about it. I try to keep to these ideas as I plan and make food each week… and for now these habits are working. I always more organized and stay on track with our budget when I do these things as well. Meal planning just helps us all around. I’ll evantually talk about how I organize my recipes- as well. In the meantime here is my “MEAL PLAN” PINTEREST BOARD if you need help with meal ideas, as I often do.
All in all, I hope you gain some new ideas if you struggle in this area too.