Looking for meal planning ideas?
For a lot of us, mealtime 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.
Simple Meal Planning is Easy Meal Planning
Of all the meal planning ideas I’ve come across, this is my favorite for keeping it simple and saving you time.
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. So if you are looking for an easy meal planning strategy, this is it!
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!
Planning out a month or two at a time really is the simplest meal plan method out there!
If you’re looking for a paperless option, check out this post on using Trello for meal planning (free template included).
How to Set Up the Simplest Meal Plan
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. And 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.
Planning out a month (or more) at a time makes it so much easier on you. Spend a couple of hours one day planning out meals, then never have to do it again. Now that’s easy meal planning!
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.
This is what makes my system the simplest meal plan out there!
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. 🙂
Monthly Meal Planner Template
Click on one of the images below to download this FREE monthly meal planner template! It’s a family meal planning calendar for breakfast, lunch, and supper. You can choose to plan one month of meals or two if you have enough recipes you love to make.
Get started on your simple meal planning today!
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You are well on your way to meal planning the simple way just by making the switch to rotating meal plans. I hope you grab your monthly meal planner template and start making your life so much easier right away.
Monthly rotating meals really is the simplest meal plan.
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.