Picture this: It’s 5:00 and the kids are screaming that they are hungry, the house is a mess from a long busy day of projects, laundry, tossed aside backpacks, and half unpacked lunch boxes etc. And where am I? I am standing in front of the open refrigerator staring blankly, hoping that something will jump out and assemble itself on the table with little effort on my part. To be perfectly clear, that has never happened…but a girl can dream, right?
It’s probably easy for you to imagine this scenario all too well, and for me it seems to be a standard, unless I have done some form of meal planning. But I DESPISE meal planning. I find no peace in carefully planned out charts, with neat color coding. They are typically over complicated and require too much effort to put together. Plus, then I have to stick to them- and I am SO not a structure person. Part of me (a small part of me) actually enjoys standing in front of the fridge and hastily gathering random ingredients to put together a creation that will please my family. But most days I am just tired, and the kids are tired and probably fighting, and I know that my husband is on the way home (depending on his work schedule) and expecting something delicious. There are those who would say, “well then he can just make it himself or bring it with him”. But I guess I am the exception to the rule, because it brings me great pleasure to put a smile on my husband’s face through my efforts.
So where is the balance, you ask? How can we meal plan in a simpler way? Well we here at Everyday-creative.com are always looking for creative ideas to make things easier and I think I’ve hit the nail on the head with this one for meal planning.
I won’t pretend it’s the perfect plan, but it works very well for me and for our family. I like to shop for basics weekly, and do a bigger shopping trip every 2 weeks. I feel like going to the store less saves me money and helps our family avoid impulse spending.
So I grab a simple chalkboard that was a hand-me-down from my Mom’s house (a piece of paper on the fridge would work too), and I make a list. I choose 10 meals that our family will eat over about the next 2 weeks. This gives us extra built in days for leftover nights, going out occasionally, or just eating bowls of cereal or scrambled eggs when the mood (or the energy level) calls for it.
I usually look through the local Grocery Ad’s first, to use things that are on sale to create my meals. For example: This week pork is on sale, so I will create a meal around that. I also try to balance the variety of meals, because we get bored with the same old thing…So where do I find my meal ideas? Pinterest usually! I just pull up pinterest and use the search bar to type in dinner and whatever I want that meal to include, like butternut squash or chicken and browse until I find one that looks good.
The next step is to look at the 10 meals I have created and make a shopping list to include any items needed for these particular meals. Then I go shopping and buy exactly what I need for those 10 meals.
Now comes the fun part. I don’t assign those particular meals to any particular day, so when it comes time to make dinner, I stand in front of my chalkboard and look through my “inspiration list” and choose a meal. I can choose with the confidence that I have all of the ingredients required, and I can pull up the recipe quickly using my pinterest board. Once we are done with the meal I typically erase it, or mark through and we follow this pattern until we have used all of the meals. Sometimes this takes us longer than 14 days, sometimes less- depending on our lives at the time. The best part is, it doesn’t matter. I’m not held down to anything! This is meal planning I can handle!
This saves me money, because I am shopping for a specific plan, and it saves me time and frustration because I don’t have to come up with meal ideas. Its quick and easy! It takes me less than 10 minutes to come up with a list of 10 meals that sound good, less if I make each member of my family come up with one meal.
How do you do your meal planning? Feel free to include links to sites you use or tips that really help you.