Meal planning is by far the most commented on and requested item of me and it’s fairly simple, but the first step is accepting you need a plan in the first place! You can’t make a meal if you don’t have the ingredients you need. You won’t have the ingredients you need unless you actually purchase them. Simple…right? Or maybe not!
This photo is of my refrigerator yesterday after eating ourselves out of house and home over the holidays. It was pretty sparse and it was giving me hives. So it was back to reality for me. To make life easier, I use a master grocery list that is on my computer and has all of the items that I always have on hand and thus are always on my list. The grocery list also includes a list of items that I make each week ahead during my Sunday Cookingpalooza. I plan by making all of the elements for the week, i.e. browned hamburger, broiled chicken breasts, pasta, rice, etc. and then I mix and match them to make different dinners and lunches throughout the week. This isn’t how most people work, so to draw the line in the sand and start with a true meal plan, make a list of each day of the week and use these themes to select a meal for that day that works for your family. Like this (I’ve given you a few potential ideas)…
Meatless Monday: Vegetable Stir Fry, Veggie Fried Rice, Veggie Lasagna, Veggie Burgers
Taco Tuesday: Hard Shell Tacos, Soft Shell Tacos, Fajitas, Fish Tacos, Chicken Enchiladas
Wacky Wednesday: Leftover Night, Breakfast for Dinner
Throwback Thursday: This night is for the tried and true item you know your family will always love. For us that would be homemade pizza.
Fishy Friday: Grilled Salmon, Homemade Fish Nuggets, Chowder, Baked Fish
On your grocery list, list these days and your selected meals and then add to each category (produce, general, etc.) all of the ingredients that you need that you do not already have in the house. Now give some thought to your breakfasts–what does everyone eat? Is there something you can make ahead that will make breakfast easier? I make a giant double batch of waffles each weekend and then freeze the leftovers so that I can pop them into the toaster each morning and then we have it with turkey sausage. My kids (actually all of us) are creatures of habit, so we tend to eat the same thing every day. I find that planning for lunches is the hardest. I can commit to breakfasts and dinners, but I can’t commit to a lunch ahead of time. So I typically make a soup, salads and then have sandwich fixings available for myself. For the kids as long as I have sandwiches, snacks, carrots and fruit, they are covered. My husband typically takes left overs for lunch.
You can download my grocery list as a guide and then tailor one to your family. Once you’ve added the times you need, you can then cross out the items you do not need this week. Now you have your grocery list. And if you keep this saved on your computer, you have just saved yourself time in the future.
I have friends that go to the grocery store every day or every couple of days. While I thoroughly enjoy going to the grocery store (I know, I’m not normal)–assuming that I do not have my children with me and I’m not trying to do it in under 15 minutes between pick ups, I have no desire to do it more than once a week. If I forget something I always send my husband to get the item. It keeps me from having to step foot in the store again, and it typically provides some comic relief, since he always gets something that is the opposite of what I’ve asked for. Once I sent him for baking soda and he returned with a 2 pound box of baking soda! I didn’t even know they made such a huge box! I didn’t need baking soda for years! And once, when we had an impending hurricane, I sent him to the store for bread so that if we lost power we could have PB&Js and he returned with garlic bread, cinnamon raisin bread and challah. **Sigh**
So draw the line in the sand, accept that you actually need a grocery list and just decide on 5 nights of dinner. You can do it!