Meal planning is a topic that I really enjoy. If you are willing to put in the initial effort, I truly think you will love it too. I already wrote about my reasons to meal plan here, so we can just straight into the how!
The other day I set out the plan for all of our dinners for the coming month. One great for planning a month out, as oppose to only a week, is that it gives me a bigger picture of what we are eating so I can keep it interesting. I took note of the steps taken to get to my finish product and laid them out so you can have the same peace of mind that I do.
I put together a few different lists of meals: one of all the meals that we make regularly, another of meals that we have made before and enjoyed but don’t make often, and a list of meals that we have yet to make but I really want to try. Having the meals right in front of me really makes the planning way more efficient. I have meal planned just using Pinterest, but let’s be honest – that is super distracting.
Plan of Attack
Next I devised a plan for how I would like to fill in my calendar. A few of examples from my own planning would be:
- Eating something my husband really enjoys at the end of the week (ex. ribs, steak, chicken fried chicken)
- Serving a casserole or crock pot meal toward the beginning of the week – one that can be reheated ideally
- Breakfast for dinner every other week (cheap!)
- Pasta only once a week
Whatever guidelines you want to use will work, just go with what will be best for your family. If you are not sure what you would like your tactics to be, just think back to some of the meals you have made in the recent past and see if you can find some natural patterns. You probably have some nights where time is more limited and you need a quick meal or a certain type of meal your family really enjoys and would like to get more often. Narrow down what that is and just go with it. If you need to change your structure later, no big deal.
Transfer Important Dates
Copy your upcoming important dates from your daily planner* to you meal planning worksheet. Writing in your anniversary dinner, your mom’s birthday party, or your upcoming vacation will be a real help for when you get down to business filling out your plan. You would not want to plan a new recipe for a night when you have company or a meal your husband would rather not eat on his birthday. Also, copying these dates to your worksheet will just make it easier on you so you are not looking at so many different things while you are filling in your plan!
Start Filling In
Now that you have your lists and a plan, start putting the pencil to the paper. I suggest starting with some tried and true recipes first and then sprinkling in a few of those new recipes here and there. When write out my monthly plan I don’t fill out a whole week then move to the next. I work my way through each part of the plan I set out and complete the month from there.
Example: I would first pick the meals I think husband would enjoy and write them in on a Thursday or Friday. The next move would be to look through my list of meals, selecting a few that will have plenty of leftovers and fill those in on a Monday or Tuesday. Breakfast meals could fall under the category of meals my husband loves. If it does I would skip a week and add a different breakfast type meal somewhere in the following week. After that I would begin filling in my pastas and so on and so forth.
Put It In Your Planner
So, now you can go ahead and add your new meal plan to your daily planner* and give your self a pat on the back (or a glass of wine). You have successfully planned our your dinners for the coming month. You can be looking forward to some of your favorite dishes throughout the day (or week), you can feel prepared knowing roughly how much time it will take to prepare your meal, and you can know exactly what to put on your grocery list! Ahhhh, a sigh of relief.
A Few More Tips
A few more things for you to consider:
- What do you have in your freezer that you would like to use this month?
- What are some meals that your children can help you prepare? Plan these for a night with extra time.
- Ask your spouse/children what meals they would like to see this upcoming month.
- If you are using fresh ingredients (ex. fresh parsley), how can you utilize that before it goes bad?
* If you don’t have a daily planner, you should (this one is cute!). I tried to do a planner a few times in college and it never really stuck. It makes my husband’s heart happy to have a planner, so I started actually using one and it feels so great. Our planner sits on the counter and I can look at my upcoming week and know what will be going on.
** Contains affiliate links