There is a sinking moment when you look at the clock, it's 4:30 and you have not a clue what you are going to make for dinner tonight. That happened all too often in my first 8 years of marriage and 3 kids. I finally pulled things together and began meal planning sometime last year. It has saved me so much stress, last minute weird meals that my family mostly wouldn't eat, and not as many "restaurant" or "fend for yourself" type nights.
Meal planning makes sure you are serving healthy, delicious, and tasty meals for yourself and your family. It REALLY helps keep your true to healthy fuel pre and post workouts.
I'll share how I meal plan. You can take all of it and put it to use or parts of it. But, this method has saved me time, stress, and money-so it's recommended.
-Blank month calender printed from outlook
-Weekly menu/shopping list print out found here: Design Sponge
-21 Frequent Meals List
-Once a month planning session
-Weekly basic list
-Monthly basic list
PUTTING THE PARTS TOGETHER:
-At the end of every month print out a blank calendar from Outlook for the next Month. So next week, I will print out a blank April calendar.
-Print out 4-5 (depending on the number of weeks that month) of the menu grocery list found at Design Sponge (Link above)
-Have at your ready a list of 21 meals you and/or your family likes and eats regularly
-Your calendar of events for the month you are planning
I start by looking at the nights in the next month to see when we will be busy, when the husband will be gone or out late, kids activities, date night, etc. I make sure to put something quick and easy on those nights. When the husband is gone, we usually plan on veggie omelets, toast/jam, piece of bacon, and fruit for dinner or some other breakfast.
Then I randomly fill in the days with the 21 meals from the frequently made list. Now you have around 5 nights or 1 a week to try something new, make something you like, but don't because of time, or whatever.
I only do this for dinner, but you can certainly fill in breakfast and lunch as well. Our family eats, pretty consistently the same breakfast and lunches everyday, so I don't feel the need to fill that part out.
Grab one of your menu grocery list pages, write the week at the top and fill the baby in. The great thing about this page is you can list all the ingredients you know you need to buy at the store/farmers market for that day. Hard to forget something when you are this prepared! Do this for the next 3-4 pages of menu grocery lists and your meals are planned!
Not quite done yet. I take the paper with me to the grocery store, but you can easily transfer the items to your shopping app on your phone, if you like. I shop for my week all in one day (try anyway) so I don't have to think about it after that day. I go Mondays to the store, so I have to remember to purchase for the next Sunday on the next menu grocery list. (You'll see what I mean when you start filling out the paper.)
I also have my staples that I buy weekly list. We always need apples, bananas, and bread (unless I make it), for example.
I also have a monthly shopping list for Costco. I go once a month as close to the first day of the month as possible. Not a complete list, but the shopping cart looks something like this: 2 cage free egg container, whole milk box, Kerrygold cheese block, Applewood lunch meat, Straus' organic whole milk plain yogurt, organic natural applesauce, organic natural PB, Larabar box, 2 bags of bananas (we buy MUCH more, but it gets us going), usually some other fruit, 2 bags frozen organic blueberries, bag of snap peas, Brussels sprouts...most of this will take us to the end of the month.
Hopefully this can help you get on the meal planning path. No joke, it saves me big time! My family also loves asking me, usually multiple times a day, "What's for dinner?" The kids also love telling me what they want to add onto the calendar for dinner. Haystacks is a big hit, Zesty Spinach Soup (aka Grinch Soup), baked sweet potatoes, Cobb Salad, veggie quesadillas, and homemade pizza are a few of our regularly appearing meals.
Happy Meal Planning!