I recently participated in the One Room Challenge, which was a fun, but totally crazy challenge to completely make over a room in just 6 weeks. I hate to admit it, but I kind of let it take over our life, and I let a lot of things slide during that time. One of those things that I am reimplementing this week is our weekly dinner meal plan. You may remember from my recipe binder post that this is something my oldest son and I started doing a couple of years ago, and it has really helped us in a lot of ways.
While getting meal planning started back up is fresh on my mind, I thought I’d share why I’ve missed it over the last few weeks and how it works for our family, along with the printable I use to keep track of it.
IT SAVES ME TIME
Normally, I make a big shopping trip every Monday and then one quick trip later in the week to pick up the things we may be running out of mid-week like milk or fresh fruit and vegetables. But, over the last few weeks, we were making our dinner plans late in the day, or at the very earliest, that morning, so I was running to the grocery store every couple of days to pick up stuff for our dinner that night. You would think picking up a few items would go pretty fast, but because of my poor planning and last minute shopping, I usually ended up shopping with kids in tow instead of when they were in school. It’s amazing how they can make a quick shopping trip take almost as long as my big weekly trip by myself. Plus, they’d somehow convince me to buy crap that I don’t really want in the house just to try and move things along!
I SAVE MONEY
Please see above…my kids would sucker me into buying them stuff that I wouldn’t normally buy! On top of that, I wasn’t really thinking much about a shopping list or how I could use food that we already have in the pantry or freezer, so I would pick up stuff that would either be something we already had or would go to waste because we didn’t really need it. Prior to starting a meal plan I would shop without a list, or I would have an idea in my head of what we were going to eat that week. I would buy what I thought we needed, but then we would never use it. We’re also not making last minute decisions to eat out or pick up take out. We still plan those nights sometimes, but now we do it when we want to instead of when we need to, which usually makes it a more fun and special time.
MY KIDS EAT WITHOUT WHINING
We started planning meals a couple years ago when I got tired of making a different meal for my kids than what my husband and I would eat. They’re fairly picky, so meals were always a pain with lots of fussing. My then 4 year old and I started planning out our dinners for the week each Sunday. He would pick out a couple of the meals, and then I would tell him it was my turn to choose some. I think it made him feel like he had some control over what he was eating. It really made it easier to get him to eat meals that he normally would complain about when I would remind him that he got to pick out some of the dinners, too. I’ve started noticing that my youngest is also giving me a hard time about dinner. Now that he’s 4, I am going to include him in our planning to see if it also helps. I’m not going to say that dinner complaints are completely gone from my oldest son, but they’re minimal, and it’s really a lot easier. Plus, I love the time I get with him while we look through my recipe binder and cookbooks and chat about what we want to eat that week. It’s really become a special time for us!
I LOSE WEIGHT AND EAT HEALTHIER
This wasn’t something I planned, but I’ve noticed whenever we plan dinners each week my weight goes or stays down. I’m sure it’s because we are eating fewer unhealthy convenience foods and not making last minute decisions that aren’t the best choices. I can already feel my waistline getting a little tighter from our lack of planning recently, which is not what I want going into summer!
THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR US
I mentioned that my son and I sit down on Sunday night to plan out the week. Before we start, I take a quick look in my freezer and pantry to get an idea of foods I have on hand that I want to use up. Then, I grab my recipe binder and a few cookbooks for ideas. My recipe binder contains tried and true recipes that I’ve had for years as well as recipes I’ve found on Pinterest, other blogs, and cut outs from magazines that I want to try. I always plan for leftovers 2 or 3 nights a week to give myself a break from cooking. That only leaves 4 or 5 nights to plan, and I can guarantee one of those nights will be tacos. It’s on our menu Every.Single.Week! The remaining meals only take us a few minutes to come up with. We don’t attempt to try to plan for anything more than a week. I’ve found that planning for the week takes just enough time that we will stick with it (unless, of course, the One Room Challange is going on). And, I only plan for dinner. Breakfast is usually cereal or eggs, and lunch is usually sandwiches or leftovers, so no need to plan there. Our meal plan is nothing fancy. It’s simple, and that’s what makes it work for us.
Once we’ve got our meal plan, I go through each of the recipes we’re using while I have my cookbooks and binder out and make my big weekly shopping list. It’s so much easier to make my list while I’ve got all my recipes in one place.
I keep our weekly meal plan posted in the kitchen, and then as I notice we are running out of things, I use the shopping list section to keep track of things that I need to pick up on my mid-week shopping trip! It’s in a prominent place so that I jot things down as I realize I need them instead of trying to remember them later.
That’s pretty much it. Easy peasy! So, do any of our family’s meal dilemmas over the last few weeks sound familiar? Are you ready to get your family’s meals organized and planned out? Both the weekly menu and recipe binder I use are available in my library of printables, along with pantry and spice labels, gift tags, and so many printables for all over your home. The library is exclusive for email subscribers, and you can sign up here. It’ll keep you up to date with my latest home decor, DIY, and recipe posts. And, if you’re looking for meal ideas, I’ve got so many great ones saved on my Pinterest boards. I’d love for you to check them out!
Does your family already have a meal plan strategy in place? I’d love to hear what works for you!