A couple of years ago, I posted my very detailed, labor intensive meal planning system involving keyed shopping lists and menus for 13 weeks at a time. While I still think it is a great system and I’d love to get back to it someday, my new system is much simpler.
The reason I ditched the old system was because it wasn’t exactly full of healthy meals. The last few years, I’ve been working on retooling our meals. Less of the Sad American Diet and more healthy choices. I haven’t exactly mastered it yet, but we’ve made some good progress.
I would love to get to the point where I can sit and plan weeks and weeks of meals and shopping lists and enjoy all the benefits of my old system, but for now I just don’t have time to do that.
I have tried several programs and apps, and for some reason none of those quite work for me. . I’m too picky for the pre-planned meals and while some of the apps (Paprika is a great one) worked really well, I just do better with a pen and paper in the store.
With my new system, I can grab whatever is on sale and the family has more input in what we’re eating.
On a really bad day, I might wander into the grocery store at 5pm, with no idea or plans for dinner that night, let alone a week’s worth of food.
If that’s the case, here’s what I do: (Keep reading to see what I do when I take time to make a list.)
When I find myself in the store with no list and no plan, I start grabbing the basics and spontaneously choose a few dinners and some lunch stuff. I’ll ask my kids for ideas, and I’ve been known to scroll my Pinterest boards in the store.
On weeks like these, I find myself falling back on family favorites that are easy to make. Pasta, burritos, taco salad.
When I get home, I write a list of all the available breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks that I just shopped for and pin it to a board in our pantry. During the week, I prepare meals based on that list.
The reason I keep a list is that, more than once, I’ve forgotten the inspiration that struck in the store and ended up using part of a meal for something else, and/or end up wasting food I forgot I bought. I know, first world problems, right? Hence, the list.
So, here’s what I do when I have time to plan ahead.
1. I choose 6-7 dinners for the week. Lots come from Pinterest, some are recipes we’ve been eating for years. Sometimes, one of the kids or my husband will request something specific. For each recipe, I’ll add what we need for it to the shopping list.
2. I choose 1-2 Lunch choices for the week and add the needed items to my shopping list.
3. I jot down a couple snacks and breakfasts.
4. Or I’ll just write “Snacks” or “Lunches” and find something on sale at the store.
5. Add anything else we need.
6. Go Shopping.
7. When I get home, I write out the options for lunches, dinners, snacks, and breakfasts, and pin them to a bulletin board in our pantry. Sometimes, I plan a certain meal for a specific day, most often, it’s spontaneous. Whatever I feel like cooking on any given day is what we’ll have.
Like I said, it’s simple!
Do you meal plan?