Meal planning is a hot topic in families. Every family needs to find the best way to get dinner on the table each night. About a 1000 years ago when my husband and I were newly engaged and living in our first apartment, my meal plan was pretty simple (and sad). Printed out a monthly calendar, wrote in meals for each night, made my grocery list from that. Granted, I didn’t know how to cook yet so the meals were sad. I’m too embarrassed to say what they were. SMH. Thank Christ for Rachael Ray. Her first cooking show “30 Minute Meals” came out when we were newly married and fueled my love of cooking.
Anyway, the monthly calendar meal plan was pretty much the norm up until we had kids. When Fofo was born, I was still working outside the home and my husband needed to prepare dinner before he went to work his third shift job. It didn’t leave a lot of time to cook so we would usually prepare food over the weekend and heat it up during the week. After Bear was born, I didn’t return to work so I figured I would have all the time in the world to cook! Ha. Granted I had more time than when I was working but still getting supper on the table was a challenge. We would plan out weekly meals but with 2 young kids you need to be flexible plus have a variety of meals that are quick, easy, and nutritious. Those are not as easy to come by as you think. Planning out a menu each week plus the making of the grocery list was becoming such a chore so we knew we needed to come up with a new system. But what?
Side note: If the calendar and grocery list works for you, keep at it! It’s a great system and totally works. There are so many cute printables to help you meal plan and perk up your list making.
I used to scoff at the advice of “keep a well stocked pantry and cook from that.” My OCD was like “No, I need to know EXACTLY what I am going to cook.” We have become much better cooks over the years (all those years of meal planning helped) so we can figure out something to make from the pantry pretty much every day. So our meal planning is more food shopping than meal planning. I look at the ads each week, specifically the protein and produce. We buy protein that’s on sale. Then pair it with the veg that is in season.
For example, if ground beef is on sale, I draw from my list of go-to recipes for ground beef (burgers, meat loaf, spaghetti and meatballs). If chicken breasts are on sale, I usually buy in bulk and then break it down into several recipes: chicken tenders, taco chicken, or oven roasted chicken.
To fill in the gaps we keep a well stocked pantry: canned goods, baking supplies, pasta, rice, chicken stock, etc. (See my post about our pantry here) It’s much easier for us to have a bunch of tried and true recipes (rollover recipes especially) during the week and fill in with a quick supper like grilled cheese, oatmeal, or pasta.
To keep it simple, I have a short list of our meal planning system. Hopefully it will help you too.
1. Check your local ads. Buy a protein that is on sale and pair it with the veg that is in season.
2. Keep a well stocked pantry to fill in the gaps. Along with quick cooking standbys.
What are your tips for meal planning? What is your meal planning system?