I have written about meal planning before – and shared how I use this Meal Planning Printable I adapted from Jessica Fisher to make my life simple and more organized! I print a copy of this meal planning sheet EVERY week to do my meal planning. And I should add that my favorite saying is on this printable…
Feed the people, keep them alive.
I get a lot of questions about my meal planning routine and how I go about doing it. The real reason for the success of my meal planning method is actually a relatively new approach and it may come as a surprise to you! My new secret is that I actually ask the family what THEY want to eat! My new secret weapon to meal planning seems pretty obvious, but until recently I never did this! I just planned my menu based on what I wanted or what I thought they might like. Now, the day before I sit down to meal plan, I actually ask everyone…
“Hey, what do you guys want to eat next week for dinner?”
It couldn’t be easier! And I always come away with five suggestions that usually end up forming the backbone of my meal plan for the week. Now, full disclosure – I may not make exactly what they asked for, but I can always come up with some clever variation that they still get excited about. As it turns out, asking for suggestions not only saves me a ton of brainstorming time on the front end, but it makes meal time more fun when I know the kids will be looking forward to seeing their pick on the weekly menu!
When I sit down to write the meal plan, my setup is always the same. I always have my Favorite Main Dish Recipes which can be found on the blog in these two posts: Part 1 and Part 2. I get down from the shelf any cookbooks I might need. Of course I print off a blank copy of my meal planning printable and the upcoming grocery list, and lastly, I grab my calendar. Some people forget to have this calendar out when they meal plan, but it’s actually a crucial part! The reason I always have my calendar out is so I plan the appropriate meal for the appropriate day. For example, if Barry will be out of town, I shouldn’t be making his meal choice! Or, if I need to be gone at dinner time one night, I need an easy meal – or one that’s ready in the Crock Pot for Barry and the kids.
It helps so much to know what’s coming up on your schedule!
If I know in advance we are going to be busy, I don’t complicate my life – I’ll plan an easy meal! I’m not going to plan Mango Chicken Curry on a day I have VBS and a hair appointment. Always look at the calendar. And like I said, also keep a grocery list right next to you! I do this so that I can add things I need right onto my list as soon as I see I need it! No forgotten ingredients!
This week my family asked for…
This week Eli asked for bacon sandwiches, which I translated to BLTs. Annie asked for Hamburgers. Ruthie asked for hot dogs. I know some of y’all shudder when I mention hot dogs. But what can I say… we don’t hate a hot dog around here! I buy the healthiest hot dogs I can find, which just so happen to Walmart’s Sam’s Choice brand Nitrite and Nitrate Free All Beef Hot Dogs. I think this week I’ll make a batch of chili to top the hot dogs.
Andy almost always asks (a lot of alliteration there!) for Macaroni and Cheese. But I make a lot of different variations of Mac and Cheese pretty easily. For example, the first week might be a traditional baked macaroni and cheese casserole. The next week, I might do a creamy stovetop version with peas and ham. Perhaps the week after that, I go with my Crock Pot Cheesy Sausage Rotini. With cheese and pasta as my guide, there’s no mountains I can’t climb! Err, I mean cheesy pasta dish I can’t make.
Barry asked for Skillet Pizzas. These are delicious and simple! Plus, in the summer months, any recipe that saves me from having to crank the oven on is a big win. I just layer all the pizza topping on a flour tortilla in the skillet, instead of topping a pizza crust and baking in the oven. Not only are these much quicker than traditional pizza, but it’s all about the cheese and the toppings. Yeah for toppings! Speaking of toppings, I need to add mushrooms to my grocery list, because I know Barry will want those on his pizza and I don’t have any!
Every Sunday night, the kids eat leftovers while Barry and I enjoy a date night (at home of course) with trashy Pizza and Netflix after they go to sleep. The remaining night is my choice and I am going with Taco Salad – another easy favorite!
One way I streamline my meal planning is to have the same breakfast Monday-Friday.
I talk about this approach in detail in my post on the The Solution to Your Breakfast Woes. But basically, I make-ahead (in bulk!) our weekday breakfasts. That means there is no stress or wondering what’s for breakfast – I know what I’ve prepped and made ahead for the week and I just warm and serve! I usually make something super quick like muffins from the freezer, which I’ll bake on Saturday. And then we have a special breakfast on Sunday like French Toast Casserole!
The Prep section of my meal planning reminds me of the tasks that I need to complete that morning (or the day before) to be ready for dinner. For example, if we are having Hamburgers on Tuesday, I need to put a note to remember to pull the ground beef out to thaw on Sunday and a note to make buns on Tuesday. Or if we are having Homemade Ranch with fresh cut-up carrots as a side on Thursday, I want to make sure I’ve made it Wednesday because in my opinion that stuff just gets better if the flavors mingle for about 24 hours!
The prep section is to help YOU. Add any notes or prep tips that will make the actual dinner time easier in your house. I always forget this type of thing if I don’t have a specific place to write it down and remind me!
The last section on my printable is for lunch.
I need to mention that we almost ALWAYS have leftovers for lunch. But as the kids are growing – so are their appetites! Sometimes, we just don’t have any leftovers! If that’s the case, we usually have peanut butter & jelly sandwiches or snack lunches of nuts, fruit, cheese and maybe some crackers. I have a section for snacks right under neath lunch. But our snacks rarely change from week to week. We do a lot of popcorn, fruit, and obviously fresh-baked bread with my homemade spreadable butter.
Well, that’s all she wrote. And I guess in this case she is me… LOL 🙂 At any rate, I hope this was helpful to yall! It If you are already meal planning – yeah, woohoo – that’s awesome! Please share your own tips, tricks and your upcoming meal plan in the comments below! If you’re not meal planning yet, I hope this inspires you to bite the bullet and start! It just takes a little bit of time on the front-end but makes a huge difference in your week!
Have a great day, y’all!