How to Tackle Meal Planning Basics in No TimePayton Foeller
I’m currently (Aug 2016) working on creating a MAKE YOUR OWN Meal Plan Kit. I’ll walk you through these steps and more. Focus on creating goals specific to your family and working toward those goals in easy workable steps with tons of fun worksheets and tips. Keep checking in to see when this kit will be released!!!
1. After searching and finding that no one’s plans really worked for us and not wanting to pay for programs or files that may or may not have worked for us I decided, in the long run, making our own would be the best thing for my family.
*quick tip, write them down in categories of produce. Mine were listed; beef/deer, chicken, pork, other(eggplant parm, salmon patties, fish, etc.) This will be helpful when we pair them up later on! I wrote out my list by hand and then typed it up to keep it safe. Make it something that you can add to in the future as you try and learn new recipes!
Now, similarly jot down a list of your go-to side dishes and maybe a few you might like to add into your regimen. Once you have your list compiled we can move onto step 3!
3. Decide how many days a week you want to plan for. Depending on your families lifestyle this will be different. Soccer moms may find they eat a lot of leftovers as their families are always on the run. For this family, I would suggest planning fewer meals per week but doubling the amount so that you can have plenty of leftovers. Or an even better option might be to plan for meals that have little to no prep or could be prepped prior to meal time (crock pot meals, frozen casseroles, and burritos, etc.). This may require learning some new recipes to add to your master list.
If you, like our family tend to eat out or eat junk when good food is not extremely readily available then you should aim a bit higher. We decided to go slightly more than half and we planned out 4 meals per week. Leaving one day for a possible family outing or eating with a friend or family, one day for leftover night, and one day for who knows what. I usually cook for 3 or 4 people so we always have leftovers for lunches and leftover night! Last night I accidentally cooked for 8.. we have pasta for weeks. Oops! If your family doesn’t eat leftovers… Don’t do this. Plan accordingly and buy exactly what you need for each meal and just plan for more meals.
4. Okay, so here’s where it gets a little tricky. My reason for doing this meal planning was to cut down on grocery store trips, meal prep, and cook time. The main way to do this is by planning meals that use the same or similar ingredients in different ways and using those meals in the same week.
In this step, look over your master list pair up similar dishes. I went through and labeled two items with a #1, then two more with a #2, and so on.
For example, this week we are having Spaghetti, baked chicken, chili, and chicken and rice casserole. At the beginning of the week I prep my ground meat, onions, and tomato sauce for my spaghetti and chili (I basically use pasta sauce to build my chili from so I can make that at the same time as the spaghetti sauce.) Then on baked chicken night I’ll cut up and season half the chicken, and the other half goes in as well to be used later on in the casserole! Get it? Half the prep! Half the time using the stove and oven! Win win.
So go over your list matching up as many items as makes sense (they won’t all have a partner, ex. Salmon patties, seared fish, stuffed mushrooms, etc). Once you have your pairs you’re ready for the next step!
5. Map out your meals! Sometimes in a week, I have one pair and two oddballs. Sometimes it’s two pairs. I planned out 6 weeks worth of meals, at 4 meals per week. I have a few from my master list that didn’t make the cut and a few that we’ve thought of that have been added to the list. These will get swapped into the next six weeks plan when it’s made up.
Once you have your main dishes planned out for each week take your list of sides and add accordingly. These don’t have to be set in stone. Each week you’ll have a chance to modify your plan according to any changes or events that come up. If you think of a new recipe or want something specific that week feel free to make it! This isn’t something that is meant to lock you into a boring routine, it’s meant to free you from the ‘what should we eat tonight’ pattern.
That’s it! The number of weeks you have filled will depend on how long your master list is. We aim to shop once a week. Eventually, we’d like to get it to every two weeks. Make a goal and do your best to stick to it! Running out of yogurt or orange juice isn’t a good reason to make a trip to the store (guilty). This not only lessens the number of impulse purchases you’ll make by running to the store all the time, but it forces you to use up that grape juice in the back of the fridge or that snack food you forgot you had. Here’s what my finished product looks like. Each week we go through and make up our grocery list based on the menu. I double check that we have enough staples; milk, bread, eggs, juice, etc, to get us through the week and then we shop!
Foeller Family Favorites – Our Go to meals
Beef / Deer –
Meat Loaf D&F
Beef and noodlesChicken –
Baked Chicken Breasts
Roast Whole Chicken
BBQ chicken Pizza
Chicken and Rice casserole D&F
Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Our Go to SIDES
***D&F means double and freeze. Meatloaf and chicken and rice casserole are my two go-to freezer meals. If you know someone in need of a meal, you know you may need an easy meal in the near future these are good options. Other meals may be freezable, these are just the two I’ve used in the past so I know they turn out alright!
*Notice not all meals are used in the weekly planning. Rotate them in next cycle.
Although we are only one week in I’m loving it! We don’t stare at the fridge wondering what we should have for dinner! 3 out 4 of the meals I had prepped and ready to go by dinner time even though I had a busting sinus headache all week long. Had I not planned anything out we would have eaten cereal all week. Feel free to use my list and my plan, or adapt it to work for your family, or make your own!