What on Earth is a Meal Plan?
I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest things for me as a mom used to be figuring out what was for dinner. My kids always wanted to know, and frankly I just wanted someone else to tell me what to cook!
I didn’t have very much cooking experience when I got married. In fact, when my mom dropped me off at college, she literally gave me a few index cards with instructions such as:
“Spaghetti: Put water in a pot, turn the stove on high, and bring water to a boil. Add noodles and cook. Strain. Then open a can of spaghetti sauce and add it to the noodles.” Guys, I was 18!
By the time I married, at age 23, I wasn’t much better. Five years away from home didn’t prove to help me in the “becoming a world-class chef” category. Shows like the Food Network and the Great British Bakeoff didn’t exist yet, and the internet was pretty new. I was on my own.
The Need For a Meal Plan
It hasn’t always been smooth running in the kitchen. In fact, for the first few years of my marriage we were just barely scraping by. My husband, bless his heart, would just add a TON of hot sauce to EVERYTHING I made, probably to hide the taste! But he never complained.
As we kept adding kiddos to the mix, I repeatedly would hear, “MOM! What’s for dinner?”
My most common answer would be, “I don’t know.”
Several nights we relied on hotpockets, cereal, or corn dogs to get us by.
I got sick of it, and so did my family.
I new I needed to step up and find a new plan.
Searching for the Perfect Meal Plan Method
I started searching google and Pinterest several years ago, in hopes to find a way of simplifying the process of meal planning and making a menu.
I found so many different methods out there, but none of them seemed to work for me. I needed variety and I needed something easy. I didn’t want to hang a huge network of index cards on my wall. I didn’t want to plan the whole year at once, and I didn’t want to be stuck with a routine (like Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday).
After months of searching and trying out others’ methods, I knew that I had to make my own. Something that would work with the way my mind worked.
Making my own Meal Planning Solution
I like to buy things in bulk when they are on sale. I also like to cook a lot. I don’t really use very many recipes anymore. I know what my family likes and have several staples to get us by, when I don’t feel like being adventurous and trying something new.
I really wanted to be able to go into my fridge and freezer, see what I had on hand, and come up with a quick weekly menu. One day, as I was staring at the massive amount of chicken in my freezer, I said to myself,
“I’ve got to have an easy way to remember all the recipes we like with chicken in them.”
Then it dawned on me.
What if I could just have a list of the different kinds of meals we like to eat and will eat, organized by the main ingredient? That way, when I saw an entire ground cow in my freezer, I could look under my “ground beef” category, and have a ton of easy options to spark my creativity and plug into a calendar.
I felt like a genius. I started to work on it right away and have been so happy I did! I’m hoping it will help you too!
My Ultimate Solution to Meal Planning at a Glance
Now, after implementing this plan for the past 5 years, I am pretty much a mastermind in the kitchen. I specialize in meal prepping, planning, freezer meals, and making a TON of food in as little time as possible to help combat the fact that I am always on the run with my kids.
As a soccer mom and coach, with busy kids that have to be all over the place, I need simple and easy.
Many days, I need to be able to fix dinner in the morning as it is my only time home. On those days I can turn to my trusty “Crockpot” category, or grab a freezer meal out of the freezer to thaw, and I save myself a TON OF TIME and effort.
What I do now is simple.
Once a month I grab my calendar and my “Weekly Meals at a Glance Cheat-sheet.” I look at what I have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer, and what is on sale at the stores. Next, I pick the meals for the entire month and write them on my calendar.
This Meal Planning Method is Super Easy & Flexible Too
I love that if I don’t feel like making something on my calendar, I can just swap it with something in a similar calendar, or maybe something I had put down for next week.
Once a week, (when I am really on the ball), I write our menu for the week on my black dry-erase board. It’s one of my favorite things in my kitchen! Now I know what to cook and my kids know what to expect. This helps our lives run smoother and eliminates the questions I used to hear repeatedly of “What’s for dinner.”
Want Your Own Cheat-Sheet to Kick-start Your Menu Planning?
Now, to make your life easier, I am offering my cheat sheet to you for free. Just sign-up in the form below and you’ll be well on your way to saving time for things that really matter most. I have also included a blank worksheet that you can fill in with your families’ favorite meals; and an empty calendar for every month, so if you are an amazing think-ahead planner, you can plan the entire year of meals if you want.
Don’t forget the special holidays, birthdays, and fun stuff when planning 😊
Please let me know in the comments below: What meals does your family LOVE to eat? What makes your life and meal planning easier? I love to learn new tips and tricks, so thanks for sharing!
Remember to pin this post so you can come back to it later if you don’t have time now. I’d love it if you would like and share it so that we can help as many moms save their sanity as possible!
One more thing… if you are looking for regular tips and tricks and daily inspiration and support, please join my Facebook Group, “More than Moms”
Ann SnookNovember 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm
I’ve been meal planning ever since I moved out on my own. I can’t really afford to waste money or food so having plans for every ingredient and dollar really makes my life easier!
nnclark11November 27, 2018 at 10:00 am
Absolutely! I didn’t really touch on how much this saves in money (more emphasis on time), but you are completely right! I’m glad you have a meal plan practice 🙂