Easy Meal Planning
What do you answer, when your child comes home from school and asks what he’s going to get for dinner? And how do you make sure that your answer isn’t going to be: …I don’t know yet. Which is a guarantee for your child to come with great, but unhealthy suggestions of his own. I’m sure it’s meant to be helpful, but getting him to eat something healthy when he already has something else in mind…well, let’s say it’s going to be challenging.
So, meal planning sounds like a good thing, right? But which mom has time to sit down for any extended period and has peace and quiet for long enough to plan meals for the whole week?
I sure don’t.
Fortunately, my two beautiful boys have inspired me to come up with some hacks to make sure we’ve got food on the table anyway. Here are 5 hacks (+ 2 bonus tips) to fill out your meal plan template!
Want to game up your meal planning? Grab this free meal plan set from the library!
1. Save 1 or 2 plans for each season
This requires a time investment up front, as you’ll still need to make these plans first. But this is the fastest, if least creative way, to save time planning meals. Once you have a few weeks’ worth, DO NOT throw your meal plans in the trash. Put them in a binder or drawer and pull them out when it’s time to do grocery shopping again.
If you are short on time, the fastest way to plan meals for the week, is to just not plan at all, but to re-use a plan you already have.
2. Have designated food days
Instead of having to figure everything out, and draining every last ounce of creative brain cells you have left over after this morning’s coloring session, have designated food days.
For instance, in our house Wednesdays is usually Pasta day. We eat Spaghetti or Macaroni. Quick and easy. Make Friday fish day. Saturday might lend itself for more elaborate meals, or for experimenting with new recipes.
If you want, you can designate a certain type of meal to every day of the week, thereby making it easier for yourself to come up with ideas.
3. Create a Pinterest board with tried and true meals
Okay, so Pinterest is a great, no awesome place to find new, delicious recipes. And yes, I too have a board (several in fact) with recipes I intend to cook someday. Which is great, I’m not saying you can’t be inspired, but please, also be realistic. When are you going to make all this stuff?
In addition, create a board with tried and true recipes. Stuff you know you and your family will like and that you know how to make.
When you plan for the week, go to this board for an instant visual of what you could be eating. What makes you crave? You could even involve the kids and ask them to pick one or two of the pictures.
4. Swap of Pool your plans with friends
If you’ve saved 2 plans, and your friend has two more, then you already have 4 different meal plans. Repeat for 3 months and, voila, you already have a season covered. It’s that easy.
Do the same with some more friends and you have even more variation, but without any extra time wasted. Easy meal planning on steroids!
5. Keep a list of recipes in Excel or Google Spreadsheets
If you have a lot of recipes that your family likes, and you’re familiar with spreadsheets, then adding a list of recipes to either Excel or Google Spreadsheets can make for very easy meal planning.
It works as follows. You list all the meals one underneath the other. In the next column you can add what type of meal it is, e.g. fish, meat, vegetarian, etc. Select the two columns and apply a filter. Next time you fill out your meal plan template, filter on fish to find a meal with fish, then select meat to select meals with meat. It gives you a very neat overview of available options.
Bonus tip: swap out one meal for something new.
If you’re afraid you or your family will get bored with the same meals, or if you feel that spaghetti every Wednesday is just too much, try swapping out one meal each week for something you haven’t tried yet.
That way you can still try out all those delicious things on Pinterest, but without investing time you don’t have into planning it all.
Frugal tip: Eat at a parents’ house once a week
Friends of ours did this during a jobless period, every week they’d eat at her parents’ house. Usually, her mother even made so much, my friend got to take some food home with her as well. Which she could then eat later on in the week.
Unfortunately, our parents don’t live close enough to us to make this a regular thing. But if you have your parents geographically close to you, why not eat at their house one day every other week. You might be able to alternate between your own parents and the in-laws every other week.
I hope these tips were helpful to you! I’d love to hear whether you have any clever hacks for easy meal planning. Just leave your tip in the comments below!