Here's my basic system for planning a week's worth of meals:
- Check the Schedule
- Take Inventory
- Start Your Grocery List
- Plan Your Meals and Snacks
- Keep it Flexible
- Have a Backup Plan
First, print out this simple meal planner or re-create it on a notepad or electronic file. It includes:
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and notes for each day of the week
- General notes, such as ingredients or freezer meals you already have
- Snacks to rotate through during the week
- Grocery list for ingredients to complete the meals and snacks you've planned
1. Check the Schedule
Look at any events that might effect meal times and make a note of it for that day. Such as "Friday am dentist, 3pm playdate." On days where you will be out all day or just before dinner time, you can plan a crock-pot dinner or a leftover night. You can also choose your easiest breakfast and lunch options for those busy days.
2. Take Inventory
Browse through your fridge, freezer, cupboards, pantry, etc. and jot down meals or snacks you can make using entirely or mostly what you already have. Also jot down ingredients or freezer meals that need to be used up soon.
3. Start Your Grocery List
As you start writing down meal ideas and browsing your cupboards, also note any ingredients you are running low on or know you'll need to complete a meal.
4. Plan Your Meals and Snacks
Now sit down and start filling out the meal sections, taking into account the information you've collected so far about schedule and what you have on hand. Plan the dinners first, then lunch, then breakfast. Often you can have dinner leftovers for lunch or for dinner another week.
When the meals are filled in for each day you have three things to finish:
- Make a short list of snacks to have on hand and rotate through them over the course of the week
- Complete your grocery list and have it ready for a trip to the store
- Go back through each day and write prep notes where needed, such as "thaw chicken for Thurs"
Keep it Flexible
During the course of the week, I stick to my meal plan about 50-75% of the time. On a good week. That's ok! I often switch meals around based on need or desire. I don't even bother updating my meal plan.
Sometimes I completely space things for the day (or week!) and am tempted to suggest ordering out... However, I've found a good solution for that!
Have a Backup Plan
To create your backup plan, take 5 minutes to make some lists. Write a list of meal ideas that you know you can usually pull together very quickly with what you normally have on hand. Then tape these lists to the inside of your cupboards! Not only will they save your bacon when it's 5:00 and you realize you forgot to thaw that chicken, but they come in handy for planning purposes.
|The snack, breakfast, and lunch lists on the inside of one cupboard door|
That's it! How do you plan for meals in your home. If you don't plan meals, what keeps you from making a plan?