So no matter how clean my house is or how organized my planner, eventually my kids get hungry and I have to feed them. And ugh, I hate feeding them.
I hate cooking. I hate grocery shopping, I hate preparation, I hate plating, I hate cleaning up. I hate literally everything about the thing I have to do three times a day almost every day of the week. (Buzz does breakfast on weekends, God bless him.)
Because I’m also not that smart, I’ve always planned out the week’s dinners. I literally could not function and would have no food available if I didn’t do that. But I always did one week at a time. Which meant that every Friday I’d have to come up with food for the next week and I’d whine to myself and avoid it and whine some more and then eventually end up just saying we’d have tacos or pizza or something every day because I did not want to deal with it.
Kind of boring.
About six months ago I switched to a four-week meal planning schedule and GUYS IT IS AWESOME. It takes about an hour every month (probably less, I’ve never really timed it) and it makes my daily life so much easier.
There are tons and tons of meal planning templates and whatnot out there, and like with everything, it’s important to make sure that you pick something that works for you.
For me, physically writing things down works great. I have a special notebook that I use exclusively for this purpose. Once I had that figured out, I just work methodically through the month.
First, figure out how many days of meals you need. My default is 16, since we have date night on Fridays and usually do leftovers on weekends.
Then look at your calendar to see what special circumstances you have. Usually we have a dinner with family, a birthday or something, etc. Subtract those days. Don’t do any more work than you have to!
I also make a note of how many crock pot meals I NEED. I love crock pot meals, and I end up making them pretty frequently, especially in winter (so September through May.) But there are some days that I absolutely require them. This cycle the kids have swimming lessons and we don’t get home until too late to cook. So I needed three to be scheduled for sure.
Then I turn to the internet, Pinterest, and my recipe book. There are some favorites here, that I try to repeat every month. (Like if I know the kids will eat a vegetable if it’s hidden in something here.) I compile a list of the recipes I’ll be making, and some extra information about them. My personal favorite- difficulty level. I don’t want to work any harder than I have to. Seriously.
I also keep a rating system, based on how much we loved the recipe. I try new ones every month to change things up (I get super bored) and mark those with a star. Sometimes they’re duds and I know not to repeat them. I also list location so I know where to find the recipe (G for Google, P for Pinterest, etc.) and a section for notes (if I changed anything, figured anything out, etc.)
Once I have that all listed, I turn to my planner. I keep all my meal plans in my planner because it works well for me. If you want to do it week by week on a board or something, great! Go for it. I write out the whole month in my planner (in pencil, so I can change it) and then put it up on the board for the week so the kids can start their whining early.
This is also where difficulty level comes in handy. I am not making a huge pot roast and duck a l’orange two nights in a row. Homie don’t play that.
Once everything is scheduled, I can turn to the grocery list. I have developed a grocery template that I print out every week and hang on the fridge so my husband doesn’t say “Hey we need blah blah blah” and I’ve already tuned him out. Because that was a pretty frequent occurrence.
It’s arranged according to the layout of my grocery store, so I’m linking it here but it might not end up helping you. Keep in mind it took me ten minutes on Google Drive to do this, so you can totally make your own.
(And maybe you don’t need your alcohol section to be bigger than your produce.)
(However if you don’t then we probably can’t be friends.)
(Guys! I’ve discovered frozen pouches of wine!!)
Then the day before I shop I can go through and fill out what we need for the week. It makes it easy to keep track of even with two kids that are running opposite directions and if I forget a pen for marking things off, I’m even okay.
(I forget a lot of stuff.)
(Not the wine pouches though.)
I’m always interested in new ways to do things though so tell me- how do you meal plan?