“How do you have time to cook a good dinner and still eat at a reasonable time?” “Takeout is so much easier.” “I don’t have anything to make for dinner so we will go thru the drive thru again, ugh!”
I’ve heard it all before, usually from other parents that are working, running errands, transporting children to and from school and activities, trying to get to the gym, etc etc etc. As a society we are busy busy busy busy, many of us consuming mass amounts of food with little nutritional value and for the most part we know that there has to be a different way. You don’t have to constantly be running to pick up food and eating unhealthy meals.
With not much effort on my part I was able to implement a 12 week meal plan that has made a positive impact for my family. — You are probably thinking, yeah right or how is this possible?!?!
I’m here to tell you that it is possible and meal planning has many benefits. It took a little time upfront but it has done a lot for our family and I know it will be beneficial for you too.
– Benefits of Meal Planning –
- Consuming Healthier Well Balanced Meals – Healthier eating becomes the norm once you have implemented meal planning.
- Saving $ – You won’t be in the grocery store as often as you were before so less add on items will be purchased. Food waste is cut way down when meals are planned so in a way you save money without even trying.
- Saving Time – Once you plan for your first 2 weeks you can use the plan and grocery list over and over again so you are not spending time planning every week. Not to mention you save time running around picking up food you ordered or waiting at a restaurant.
- Stress Reduction – If having healthy meals planned and saving time & money isn’t enough of a benefit just remember that because of all these things you will also stress less.
I’ve come up with a simple meal plan technique that has been invaluable for my family…saving time, money, reducing stress and eating healthy foods are all substantial benefits. I’m also appreciative of nightly dinners at the table together.
There are many websites devoted to meal planning. I’ve skimmed a few of them and adapted the way that is easiest for my family. Eating healthy well balanced meals has always been a priority of mine and I enjoy trying new recipes — as long as they are pretty simple. I’ve done some sort of meal planning or another my entire adult life. What is working for me now has been my go to system for the last few years but I recently switched it up with tons of new recipes.
I’ve always been a planner so meal planning comes naturally to me. I love a good list, whether it’s a to do list or a grocery list it keeps me on track and everything moving more efficiently. Adding a weekly “what’s for dinner” list seemed to fit in to my lifestyle easily. If you have read this far you must be interested in the idea of meal planning too, so let’s get down to how it works.
– The Basics of How I Meal Plan –
- I plan for 2 weeks at a time – A total of 11 meals are included in my 2 week meal plan…this leaves a night to go out or order in, have leftovers or attend an event or family party where dinner is served.
- I make sure to have a variety of meals on the 2 week meal plan. I always try to include the following as my main dish 2 salads, 1 chicken, 1 turkey, 1-2 fish, 1 soup, 1-3 vegetarian and 1 night for grilling so we don’t end up with chicken 4 nights in a row. Of course this doesn’t work out perfectly but I do go for a bit of variety. All my dinners include protein and vegetables and often a bit of fruit.
- I need a 11/2 -2 hour chunk of time to plan for 2 weeks. I write down the 11 meals I want to include and make the corresponding grocery list. My grocery list is in sections to save time at the store. The sections are produce, frozen, meat/dairy, other and check at home. After the list is made I check for items I may already have and cross them off the list. At this time I add breakfast, lunch and snack items to my list. *If I know I’m only going to use half a jar of sauce for a recipe then I make sure to grab some noodles to add the sauce too for kids snack or lunch one day.
- I check my weekly calendar and plug in the meals for each day of this week. Nights that we have longer activities call for the more simple meals. The one weeknight that I am home is the night that is going to get the meal that takes the most prep time. Sometimes I prep the meal in the morning or the night before and toss it in the oven or on the stove right when I get home. You have to do what works best for your family to make this a success.
- The following weekend I look at the calendar and plug in the remaining meals to the days for that week. I usually make a quick trip to the store for some additional fresh fruit and veggies but that’s all I get because I did the bulk of my shopping last week. Sometimes I don’t have to go back to the store but usually I do one quick trip at the start of the second week.
Those are the basics of how I have successfully completed 12 weeks of meal planning. At the end of week 2 I sat down and used 11 new dinner recipes to plan meals for weeks 3 and 4. Once I got to week 12 and didn’t have any new recipes I was eager to try I started over with week 1 and 2 and it was already planned for me…saving me even more time!!! I grabbed the list of meals, plugged it in to my nights and checked the already made grocery list. If you want to adapt a meal planning system like this I promise it’s worth the initial time it takes to plan the first 2 weeks. You don’t have to go all the way up to 12 weeks either, you could easily plan weeks 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 and be done, you would still get an entire month of never repeating the same dinner.
I’ll be sharing the meals included in the first 2 weeks of my meal planning soon.
If you have questions about this process please let me know. If you already have a system that works for you I’d love to hear how you meal plan in your home too.