As I research meal planning and try it for myself, I’m realizing that there are many ways to do this thing called meal planning. Of course, I knew this, and I’m sure you already did too. There are weekly/biweekly/monthly schedules. There is once a month cooking, freezer meals, and slow cooker meals. It can get overwhelming and give you the case of the “shoulds”. I “should” be doing this, I “should” be doing that.
Friends, let’s dump the “shoulds” and do what we can right now, in this season of life. Let’s figure out what will work for us and our family. This is a recap of the first step in the series Meal Planning for Beginners like me.
Meal Planning Series
This is the second of a series on meal planning, be sure to check out the other posts too!
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Two, Simple Weekly Menu Plan (you are here!)
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Three, Groceries and Shopping
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Four, Essential Pantry Staples
Meal Planning for Beginners Recap
In Meal Planning for Beginners: Step One, I suggested listing out all the meals that you already eat on a regular basis. This way you have a starting point for deliberately rotating meals that you know your family enjoys and will eat.
My first draft was a list of simple meals that I had prepared in the last year. I got this information from my planner. I usually jotted our dinner meal down after I made it so that I could keep track of the last time we had tacos or spaghetti. My youngest son would happily eat noodles every single night, but I was trying to avoid the groan from my older two sons of “spaghetti, AGAIN!”
When I looked at the list I realized that the meals we were making could be grouped into “categories.” I rewrote the list and grouped them into the categories above:
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Meat Dishes
Here is my second draft:
The meals marked with an asterisk are meals we don’t have on a regular basis but ones I would like to start adding to the rotation.
Meal Plan Attempt: Take One
The first thing I did was to research meal planners. I spent way too much time looking at all the pretty meal plans. I finally chose one and printed off this simple weekly menu planner, put it in a clear plastic cover, and used a dry erase marker to write down a tentative meal plan for the week.
On days when I was in charge of dinner, I put down a specific meal. On days when I wasn’t in charge of dinner, I put down a category as a suggestion. Here is what the week looked like in the end:
- We did not order take out.
- I did not feel overwhelmed at the thought of dinner time.
- I could refer my husband and children to the menu plan on the refrigerator for meal suggestions Tuesday-Thursday.
- The meal planning based on category, not meal specific.
- The dry erase marker and the flexibility it provided. Originally I planned a frittata for Thursday dinner but my son wanted to try making pizza dough. Great! Later, I just erased frittata from Thursday, put in Pizza, and am keeping frittata in mind for a dinner meal in the upcoming week.
Recap of Steps
- Write down a list of meals that your family already makes and enjoys.
- Decide how many nights you want to plan meals for. If you’re not currently planning, plan for 2-3 days this week. Pick a number that is beyond what you are currently doing, but feels comfortable to you.
- Make a meal plan based off of the list you wrote down in Step 1. You can write down broad categories, like “pasta,” “Mexican, ” etc. or specific meals, whatever fits your personality and family needs.
- See what works, and adjust for the following week.
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Let me know what works and doesn’t work for you. I’m still figuring this out as well so I’d love to hear!