If you have been reading my blog for a while you might of noticed I am a fairly organized person.
I have a strict schedule that I try to keep because it really helps me save time and effort over the course of my busy week.
One of my most stringently held routines is on Sunday mornings. Every Sunday I plan my week’s meals and then I go grocery shopping. This keeps me from having to decide what to cook every night and I don’t have to revisit the grocery store again until Thursday when I shop for my Friday night dinner parties.
I thought you might be interested in seeing how I plan my weekly meals because I have been doing this for at least 11 years and have a few tricks up my sleeve that could help you with your meal planning and cooking.
Meal Planning Ideas
Let’s start with the basics.
I believe every meal should be composed of a protein, a vegetable or fruit, and a “filler”. This used to be called “starch” but with this whole gluten free fad, I think many people are moving away from the starch aspect of a meal and substituting a second vegetable or whole grain.
Usually this means three separate dishes but sometimes it can all be included in a “one pot” meal. Other times I just don’t feel like dealing with a second side dish and just make sure the main dish and side dish are filling enough to keep my family full for the rest of the evening.
You might notice I didn’t include dessert in my meal plan.
I don’t serve dessert to my family except on special occasions or on Friday nights. I think this is left over from how I was raised, because my mother didn’t let sweets in the house. I am less strict than my mom, but I don’t think it is very healthy for kids to expect something sweet after dinner every single night. However if you prefer to have a dessert served, then feel free to add this to your plan.
Get Out The Cookbooks!
The first thing I do when writing out my weekly menu is pull out a few of my favorite cookbooks, including my own cookbook!
When I first started cooking I was a huge fan of Rachel Ray and her 30 Minute Meals. I still use her second cookbook (my favorite) all the time.
I also use Every Day Food: Great Food Fast almost every week. I think the food is just as delicious as Rachel Ray and the preparation isn’t quite as excessive.
I am also a huge fan of Pinterest and have a zillion recipes I want to try. So I usually attempt one new dish a week from my vast Pinterest collection.
What’s On The Schedule?
The next thing I do is take note of my weekly schedule.
I know that Wednesdays are tricky because I often have to drive carpool for my 9 year old. He has Hebrew school and won’t be able to eat dinner until around 6:30pm, and we normally eat at 5, so whatever I serve needs to be able to last for a few hours.
I have solved this problem by making Wednesday pizza night, but if you don’t have this luxury, you can also make your busy night (or nights) crock pot or sandwich night.
My point is to remember which evenings you have more time and which you need some extra help getting dinner on the table and adjust your menu accordingly.
Time To Meal Plan!
Now that you have some cookbooks out for inspiration and know what your schedule for the week looks like, you can get started with meal planning. Here are few ways you can plan your meals:
- Choose by protein. Have chicken on Sundays, vegetarian on Mondays, pork on Tuesdays, beef on Wednesdays, fish on Thursdays and leftovers on Fridays.
- Choose by country. My family loves Mexican and Italian food so I often have both represented within my week.
- Choose by dish. I know someone who makes the same meal every week. On Mondays she makes meatloaf, Tuesdays is taco night, Wednesday is soup and sandwiches, etc. I find this to be a bit dull, but when you have picky eaters this can be the best way to plan your meals.
Remember Your Favorites
If you are just starting out with meal planning, you should keep a record of what recipes you have tried that your family loves and which ones have been failures.
Try to get at least 10-20 recipes that are easy, tasty, and your family enjoys. Once you have this you can just rotate the meals through out the month.
Here are few that I use over and over again:
- Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps with white rice
- Spaghetti And Turkey Meatballs with salad
- Sloppy Joes, potato salad, and a fresh vegetable
- Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup with a salad, guacamole, and chips
- Fish Tacos with coleslaw and beans
- You can also purchase my aforementioned cookbook with 20 tried and true recipes that I use to feed my family.
By knowing what you are cooking each night and only going to the grocery store once or twice a week you should be better able to feed your family without hassles. It might also free up some time for you to spend following your passions and taking care of yourself, which I highly advocate.
Do you have any meal planning tips?