Meal planning can be so helpful. It is a really great habit to develop. I'm sure you have read plenty of posts and articles about the "best" way to meal plan. I've compiled just a few tips for you. These are the things that I have learned over the last 5 years of meal planning.
1. Not planning according to your activities
This one is really a problem in the summer and during the holidays. I know that I can write out a really great meal plan for the week and buy all the groceries and then only end up making half. We love to be outside in the summer and there are plenty of days that we stay at the pool longer than I had originally planned. We like to hike and we may decide to follow a few butterflies and take our time coming back down the trail. Those days are not the days that I come home and can muster up the energy to make a new recipe or a detailed dinner. Give yourself the luxury of putting sandwiches on the menu. Or plan to have pasta salad for dinner and throw it together before you head out to your adventures in the morning. Cold cut sandwiches, fruit, and some veggies are a wonderful dinner. So is a frozen pizza tossed on the BBQ to cook for 15 minutes after a fun day at the pool.
2. Planning too many new recipes
I LOVE finding new recipes. I am constantly clipping, printing, and writing out new ideas for meals. I get myself in to trouble when I plan 4 new recipes in one week. It takes brain power to follow a new recipe and try new things. There are just some nights that I need to be on auto pilot and not have to think. Pull out the old favorites that you could make with your eyes closed (or GASP......boil noodles and heat a jar of marinara). Put one new recipe on the menu each week and plan it for a day that you have a little extra time.
3. Not leaving wiggle room
I know there are 7 nights every week. I know that my family will need to eat all 7 nights. But I still only plan 4-5 dinners each week. We like to heat up leftovers, go out to eat with friends, and recently we LOVE to get together with my grandparents who just moved down the street. If I plan dinners and buy for all 7 nights, I end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed. And I always plan one "pantry/freezer" meal each week. That means that the meal only consists of ingredients that can be kept in the pantry without spoiling or in the freezer. This way if I don't get to that meal, I can just move it to the next week without worrying of wasting food.
4. Not planning according to your stage of life.
I have 3 little ones. My tiny guy is only 6 months old and still nursing frequently. My 3 year old is in the middle of potty training. All of this means that I don't have a lot of "stand time" in the kitchen. I need to choose meals that have little prep or prep that I can do ahead of time. My meals may need to be in the oven for 45 minutes, but I can't stand at the stove whisking a delicate sauce for 25 minutes. Make sure to give yourself grace and set yourself up to succeed. You will feel good about what you get accomplished and your family will love so see you eating dinner with a smile and not a frazzled attitude.
I love preparing meals and serving others. Food is such a comfort and the memories made are special. Try creating a meal plan next week. Do just 7 days at a time and see how it goes. Then bump it up to two weeks.
I hope these tips help you. I know I am always tweaking my system and adjusting as I go. There is no perfect formula but these are some good tips to help you get going in the right direction.
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