For a lot of us, meal time causes tons of stress…trying to figure out what to make, making sure you have all the ingredients, and attempting to make the whole family happy. Ha! Well, unfortunately, the last one might be impossible if you have kids. Over the years, my meal planning has gone from stressful to complicated to simple. We have used a variety of methods, based on what worked best in our season of life. And, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with healthier recipes. Now that our kids are all in school and in activities, we have had to simplify meal planning even more to save more time and more money. Simple meal planning is possible, and I will show you how.
You will have to spend some time getting this simple meal planning system set up, but once it’s up and running, it will be easy peasy. 😉 My simple meal planning system is this: create a meal plan for an entire month or two and keep rotating those meals. Having a whole month of mostly unique meals will keep enough variety in your plan so that you don’t get bored with eating the same meals over and over again. This simple meal plan will also save you time because you won’t have to come up with meals every week. Even more, this meal plan will save you more money because you know what you will make during those two months and can stock up on items like meat when they go on sale!
Simple Meal Planning
Here’s what you need to do to begin your own simple meal planning system:
1. Make a list of all the recipes you know how to make.
Don’t forget recipes for breakfast, lunch, supper, and possibly snacks. This should give you a variety of meals, some quick and easy, and some more time-consuming or elaborate. Hopefully most of your meals are quick and easy, but if they aren’t search for some new recipes to add to your collection. If there are certain foods you only make during certain seasons, say a light salad in the summer, keep a separate list of these. I like to have a list of food I make during the warmer months (spring and summer) and a list of recipes I make during the cooler months (fall and winter).
2. Choose a way to categorize your recipes.
You can categorize them by type of meat (i.e. beef, poultry, seafood, vegetarian) or type of cuisine (i.e. Italian, American, Mexican, Asian). Choose whichever category system makes it easy for you to add variety to every week so you don’t feel like you are eating the same types of food every day.
3. Decide on a realistic number of times you will eat out or try out a new recipe.
If you plan when you will eat out, it is less likely to happen more often than you intended. If you like to cook and try new recipes, make sure you account for that in your meal plan. Say, for instance, you want to make a new recipe every week. Simply make sure you incorporate a new recipe into your meal plan each week.
4. Create a meal plan for at least a month at a time.
Use the list of recipes you made, including the number of times you will eat out or try a new recipe, to fill in a month’s worth of meals. Try to vary each week by incorporating your different categories and including a realistic number of less time-consuming recipes.
At the beginning of each week, look at that week on your month’s meal plan. Choose which day you will actually make each recipe based on your schedule and write it down to keep somewhere in your kitchen. Then, use your week’s meal plan to create a shopping list and go shopping.
5. Rotate your meal plan for the entire cool or warm weather season.
Use your meal plan until the weather changes and you are in the mood for lighter (or heavier) meals. All you have to do is sub out some of the comfort foods for lighter meals you tend to make in the spring and summer. Now your meal plan for next season is finished as well!
If you want to make it even easier, you could make all of your shopping lists ahead of time as well. Then, all you would need to do each week is use that shopping list to check off what you already have on hand and shop for the rest. 🙂
My gift to you!
Click on one of the images below to download these FREE simple meal planning printables! Get started on your 2-month simple meal planning today.
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Stay tuned for next week’s post with some ideas for quick and easy meals for fall!
How do you keep meal planning simple? Share with us in the comments!