I have tried fancy meal-planning systems and calendars. Once upon a time, I made four weeks’ worth of meal plans and the grocery lists to go with them and used them over the course of a month at a time. I wanted to
formulize formulate simplify meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking because it can be a big, daunting task for a didn’t-cook-before-I-married girl. I was making it way more complicated than it needed to be.
Nowadays, it’s simple for me. Here’s why:
- I don’t pressure myself to make fancy or complicated meals. Easy, simple family favorites are what I prepare most nights.
- I keep things interesting by trying new things when I feel like it. When I have a recipe I want to try, I plan it for a night when I know I’ll have extra time and extra energy to put into the meal. (I probably only make something new two or three times in a months’ time.)
- I keep all my recipes fairly accessible. All my cookbooks share a shelf in the kitchen, and I save recipes I like to my “recipe box” on allrecipes.com, so I can get my hands on a recipe when I need to.
- I use some general themes for meal planning. Some ideas for meal theme nights are:
- Breakfast Night (omelettes and biscuits or pancakes and eggs)
- Pizza & Movie Night (usually Friday nights for us)
- Italian Night (spaghetti, chicken spaghetti, lasagna or baked ziti)
- Mexican Night (tacos, enchiladas, taco salad or chicken chimichangas)
- Family Favorite Night (right now for us this is chicken nuggets, fries, and fruit salad)
- Soup & Sandwiches Night
- Leftover Night
- No Cook Night (raw fruits and veggies, cheese cubes, hummus, bread– nothing you have to “cook”)
- Crock Pot Night
Themes add variety to my weekly meals. When I sit down with my Daily Specials (Menu Board) and a marker, I think about what we’ll have going on each day and then quickly assign a theme and a meal idea to each night. From there I look over the recipes I’ll need and make my grocery list. Truly, it takes me a total of fifteen minutes to meal plan for a week!
How can you simplify your meal planning? What theme nights would you add to the list?