This post is part of a series on how I plan, shop, and prep food for my family. I explain my processes so that you can adapt some of the strategies to your individual situations.
Even for someone who *loves* food and cooking, everyday food planning and prep is tedious. However, I’ve found some ways to make things run more smoothly overall. It does require some up-front work, but you’ll earn it back in one night not spent wondering what to make for dinner and searching your cabinets. Multiply that by 5 nights a week, and you’ll have an hour back every week.
What kind of grocery shopper are you? Do you:
a) just throw a bunch of stuff in your cart and hope that you end up with something edible?
b) go to the grocery for dinner food nearly every night?
c) buy the normal stuff every week, but get sick of eating the same three things?
For me, I make a big shopping trip once every two weeks, with a quick stop at the beginning of the second week if we need more milk/bread/produce. It’s so much less stressful not to have to worry about what we are eating or how to squeeze in shopping every night (let alone the savings!).
We’ve been meal planning for a few months now, and when we fall out of routine, we instantly regret it — life gets more hectic (and much more expensive). So here’s how I do it.
I start by picking a meal for each theme day while looking at my calendar, sticking mostly to the days but switching things around if we have a crazy night or something else. We mostly adhere to the schedule, but sometimes something just doesn’t sound great, so we will swap days around.
We were really worried about meal planning being boring or tedious, but it actually helps us keep more variety in our dinners. How? When planning a month at a time, we try to plan something different for each of the theme nights with as few repeats as possible (unless we are just really into a certain dish at the moment).
Let’s look at the next two weeks (I didn’t plan a whole month this time because of the holidays making our schedules weird):
(Like the colors to match my Emily Ley Simplified Planner?)
There are some abnormalities to this two-week plan, but overall, it shows how different our meals are night-to-night. Note – we usually eat fish at least once a week, but I’ve gotten a bit burned out on it lately. Also, we don’t mind eating the same meat two nights in a row as long as it is prepared in a different way, either.
The other portion of meal planning for us is lunches. My husband and I eat leftovers or lunch meat for our lunches every day, and since I usually make a big pot of soup on Sundays, that fills in any gaps. My kids, however, have to have specific portions of things for lunches due to government regulations, so we’ve developed a series of items:
- Whole Grain/Protein: Turkey and Cheese or Peanut Butter and Jelly on Honey Whole Wheat Bread
- Fruits: Two fruits each day per week – this week, it’s raspberries and clementines.
- Veggies: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for little boy and black olives for big boy
Ready to start meal planning? You don’t have to do theme nights! This is just how we ensure that we don’t eat the same five things every week. You could also just make a list of all of your favorite meals to look at each week, or modify my nights to suit your family’s tastes.