3 Takeaways for Meal Planning
By Valerie Bradshaw
1) Make a list of 7 simple meals, including sides, that your family likes overall.
Not everyone has to love them, but perhaps every person likes an element of it or most people like it. Make sure they are realistic to make time wise and cost wise for your situation and family. Use this as your basic meal plan. You don’t have to use these same exact meals every week, but it’s great to have a set meal plan that you know people like to fall back on if you don’t have time to think through what to eat before you go to the store. If you want to mix it up, you can stay in a similar category like swap out fajitas for chicken tacos or swap out tomato soup for chicken noodle soup. It gets rid of a lot of decision fatigue over meal planning.
2) Build in leftover nights or frozen food nights into your schedule on busy days.
Some days (or seasons of life) just make cooking hard. But you can plan for that too. Often my meal plan for the week includes 2 leftover nights and 1 or 2 nights listing some sort of frozen food to heat up quickly. I keep things like frozen pot stickers, pizza, soup, sloppy joes, etc. in my freezer and plan to use them. I feel much more successful about feeding my family when I intentionally use frozen food. Sometimes we use it as an emergency, but usually we use it because I’ve already looked at my schedule and decided that day is not conducive to cooking a big meal.
3) Loosely plan for breakfast, snacks and lunch too.
This helps me so I know what to grocery shop for. I keep a list of snack ideas on my fridge so when I’m looking for something for myself or my kids I have an idea of what to grab. And they all include some produce and protein. Similarly, keeping a list of lunch and breakfast ideas is also helpful so you aren’t stuck eating cereal and mac and cheese or sandwiches all the time. Feeding Littles has lots of great, simple ideas for this. I also love to cook a large batch of hot breakfast items once or twice a week and we eat it all week long. Some things that reheat well and you can batch cook are: baked oatmeal, 9 grain cereal, sheet pan pancakes, german pancakes (regular, chocolate, or pumpkin) and muffins.