There is a lot that can be said about meal planning, and having it be a way to make your life easier is definitely one of the biggest pluses. You have now decided to try out meal planning…but diving into it feels time consuming and hard! There are a lot of tips and tricks to use to make it a lot simpler. This post is the third of a multi part series on meal planning. Part one focused on the benefits of having a meal planning routine and part two focused on developing a strategy that works for you. This post is going to let you in on some tips and tricks to help you along.
One thing that I struggle with is inspiration. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to be inspired…you are just making a plan – and a plan can be changed if you suddenly have a burst of inspiration. In the meantime, you want to start somewhere simple.
Make a List of Your Favorite Family Meals
Grab a piece of paper, or your planner and make a list of the meals that you know will always be in your rotation. Think about family favorites, quick and easy, and even special occasion meals. If you are feeling really inspired go for 31 different ones. Include things that are super easy or tried and true…my list includes pancakes, breakfast for dinner, and a family favorite “Happy Hour for Dinner.” This will help if you get into a slump. And if you are pressed for time you can pull out this list and just choose the first 7 that catch your attention…and there is your dinner plan for the week.
Use Pinterest, Cookbooks or Cooking Groups for Ideas
Just like the favorite meal list, having sources for other ideas is really helpful. Pinterest is my tool of choice and I have so many pins of ideas and recipes that I want to try. I also have cookbooks with Post-it bookmarks of recipes we love and recipes we want to try. There are also groups on Facebook that can give you inspiration – there is an Instant Pot group with more than two million members. Trust me, you can find a recipe for anything you can possibly make in an Instant Pot.
Have a Formula
This is one of my favorite tools in my meal planning routine. Again, finding inspiration and things to cook is one of the things that can hold you back from making a plan that works. I came up with a formula that I can use when needed. This might not work for everyone, but it works for me. Here it is:
- Salad Monday
- Taco Tuesday
- Wing it Wednesday
- Take out or Left over Thursday
- Meatless Friday // Boys in Charge (hubby and/or son cook)
- Saturday Special // Soup Saturday in the winter
- Spaghetti Sunday
Having a rough meal plan for the month is usually my goal. Then it can be changed around as needed or as schedules change. I use a monthly calendar that is in my paper planner and start with the easy stuff first. Taco Tuesday is a favorite in our house so for each Tuesday on the calendar I fill in some semblance of Tacos or our favorite Mexican foods – burritos, taco salad, and so on. Another reason this works for me is that I have a pretty good idea with how my week is going to go. For example, by the end of the week I’m done! So leftovers or take out it is. And Saturday’s are usually the day when I can make something that takes a little longer or requires more prep.
Add Meal Planning to Your Recurring To Do List
I love my recurring to-do list items! Those are the items that I don’t have to think about, they just automatically show up in Todoist as a reminder. I break the planning into smaller pieces over the week. One day I will check the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what we have on hand and what needs to be used. Then another day I’ll move things around on my monthly meal plan based on schedules, and another day I’ll make my shopping list. By breaking it up I am more likely to keep up with it because each task has a very low time commitment. Now, if this doesn’t work for you, put an hour in your calendar once a week to sit down and do your planning.
Communicate Your Plan and Get Others Involved
If you want your meal plan to stick, you need to get the cooperation of all parties involved! Each week I post my meal plan on the fridge so that the whole family can see it. What’s for dinner? Check the list on the fridge. What night do I have to be in charge of dinner? Check the list on the fridge. I found the most amazing Post-it pad on Amazon that is perfect for this. Check out my resource page for a link.
Whatever tactics you use, meal planning is one of the best ways to give yourself a little more control in your fast moving life. I would love to hear some other ways that you meal plan, please comment below.