Let’s talk about meal planning, shall we?
I’ve shared a menu planning printables on the blog recently, but it’s been quite a while (years, actually) since I’ve written in depth about it, so I thought it was about time.
Meal planning is one of the fundamental components of running a household smoothly. We all have to eat every single day, rain or shine, right? Sometimes it seems exhausting and never ending. While it is never ending, it definitely does not have to be exhausting.
There are so many different approaches to meal planning, and there’s no right or wrong way. Some methods work better for certain people or certain seasons of life. Meal planning can save you money, time, and help you eat healthier!
Being the planning junkie that I am, I’ve tried out several different approaches over the years. For a while, I was on roll doing what I call non planning meal planning. It’s very non traditional, but it worked amazingly well for me for a long time, and saved a ton of time and money!
I’ve also enjoyed digital meal planning in the past, and there are some pretty cool tools out there for digital meal planning. I wrote all about my favorite online meal planning tool here if that sounds like something that would work for you. Ultimately, I just love paper and pen, but I may go back to digital planning at some point.
Lately, I’ve been creating a meal plan and grocery list each week, and that’s working fairly well. I haven’t had to spend time after I make my plan worrying about our meals. I just follow the plan. It saves us money, and we’re able to eat a lot more healthfully. However, I found it to be time consuming to make the menus and grocery lists. It also seems like I can never remember what meals we like when it comes time to make the plan.
Therefore, I’m working on a new approach that I think will save even more time. (Sidenote: I usually test these things before I share here on the blog, but I’m so excited I couldn’t wait to share. Plus, I think it’s fun to share in real time.) I’m calling it rotating meal plans, and, of course, I HAD to make a printable to go along with it!
How It’s Going To Work
Here’s how it’s going to work. If you want to do the same thing, we’ll be doing it together:
Step 1: Gather up all my recipes and make sure they are organized. This is pretty much already done because I keep most of my recipes organized as I go. If you’re a member of the Sweet Life Planner Club, I describe my process for recipe organizing in the bonus recipe organizing workshop. However, I do have a few recent printouts that haven’t been added to my books.
Step 2: Make a menu plan each week for 4-6 weeks complete with grocery list, staple items to make sure I have on hand, and prep notes. I made the printable just for this. I really like writing any prep instructions on the plan to make sure I don’t forget anything. This includes things like thawing meat the night before, starting crockpot in the am, etc. I also do as much as possible the night before when I need to get a crockpot meal started in the morning. I chop the veggies, get out the crockpot, recipe, cans, etc, so all I have to do on a busy morning is dump stuff in. I also do as much prep on Sunday evenings as possible to make the week easier.
Step 3: Print out the recipes that go with each meal plan and put them with the plan in a binder or folder, so each folder has the menu plan with all the recipes for it.
Step 4: Number and label the meal plans. I’ll give each meal plan a number and a description. For example, one might be “super healthy” to be used on weeks where I feel like we really need to eat super healthy. One might be “quick and easy” for weeks that are really busy and I need mostly quick meals. I’ll have one or two for entertaining that include a meal or two that would be perfect to serve to company.
Step 5: Repeat. At the end of 6 weeks, you’ll have created six different meal plans. On week 7, just pick one of the previous plans, and your work is done!
Step 6 (optional): If you really want to take this a step further and you have a store near you that offers grocery delivery or pickup, save a list in your account that goes with each plan. When you’re going to use that plan, just delete whatever you don’t need, add any staples that you don’t have on hand, and order.
That’s all there is to it. I think by doing it gradually week by week it won’t be too overwhelming. I’ll keep you posted in my newsletter about how it’s working for me.
I Have A Confession…
True confession: I don’t always follow my meal plans completely, but I try my best. For example, a crockpot soup was on the menu tonight – yummy! It was supposed to be in the crockpot before I started my workday at 9am. Well, it’s 2:43 pm, and I haven’t touched the crockpot, so I’m pretty sure that’s not happening. My 8 month old was up a lot of the night with a fever, so I took him to the doctor this morning. It’s the first time he’s ever had a fever, and I was a little flustered by it (not to mention a bit tired). Therefore, I didn’t even THINK about dinner (despite my written menu plan that said “crockpot dinner at 9am”) until we figured out what was wrong (an ear infection), got him medicine, and got him sleeping peacefully in our babysitter’s arms. We’ll have to go with plan B tonight.
Despite not following my plans to a T, things still run so much more smoothly when I have a plan. I haven’t had to wonder what’s for dinner or if we have all the ingredients. I just follow my plan. And even though tonight’s plan isn’t working out, since I’ve cooked dinner earlier in the week, we have enough leftovers to cobble together a decent meal tonight – hooray! And I’ll just move tonight’s meal to another day, and all is well!
What about you? How do you meal plan? Are you going to to try this method with me?
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