“What’s for dinner?” I used to cringe when I heard this question. Coming home from work, I am already drained of making decisions and the mental power it took to think of what to cook was just too overwhelming. Sure, I have been to the store this week already and I have fixings for tacos, spaghetti or hamburgers, but this morning I forgot to thaw the hamburger, and I think I forgot to buy the breadsticks to go with the spaghetti. So really, I am not ready to make any of those options tonight. Let’s get takeout! (Both an unhealthy and expensive option.)
I struggled for years with this type of disorganization. Our cupboards always seemed to be full of food, but it wasn’t always easy to pull a meal together. I was also making multiple trips to the store within one week. This habit turned out to be costly and unhealthy.
I have since perfected my method to meal planning and in turn it has helped me save hundreds of dollars at the grocery store.
Some of you may be motivated by beautiful planners and organizers with pretty fonts and sparkly flowers or designs. Well, this isn’t for you! My method is so much simpler, but it works!
- Spiral Notebook – I usually have 2 or 3 in the kitchen area, because if I can’t find the one I used last week, it doesn’t matter.
- Every week I sit down and plan the meals and make a grocery list based on the ingredients needed. I usually do this on Friday evening or Saturday morning, because I generally go to the store on Saturday morning.
- Top half of paper…list the days of the week and put a meal down for each night. I plan around activities and anticipate when I might be working late and need an easier meal.
- Bottom half of paper …I write down all of the ingredients that I may need at the store and add them to the list.
- Rip the bottom half of the paper out of the notebook and take to store as list.
- Top half gets taken out of notebook and put on refrigerator so everyone knows what we are having, and if I am not home, then they can make the meal for themselves.
You can click here for a sample meal planner with a list of 100 meal ideas, or sign up below!
Over the course of next week, if I remember things to add to the grocery list, I just start a new paper, that I keep in the notebook until I have done the full planning.
You might be thinking…yeah, but where are the lunches or breakfast items? We have an assortment of items that always seem to be on hand such as cereal, breakfast protein bars, eggs, toast, etc for breakfast. As for lunch, we also have the same items stocked away in the freezer such as fish sticks, chicken strips, mac and cheese, soup, etc. I have gone through the school lunch menu for the week and write down on which days each child will be having hot or cold. This keeps me from rushing each morning to look up what is for lunch and then finding each kid to ask them what they want. They make the decisions at the beginning of the week and I am ready for it, adding any additional lunch items to the grocery list.
You might also notice, I don’t have Saturday listed. That is because too often, we are pulled in many directions on Saturdays and we never know what will happen. We keep this as a free day, meaning we just kind of all eat when we need to and either eat leftovers on the run, or grab a sandwich.
This meal plan is flexible. If we need to switch a night around, no problem. Want to eat hamburgers earlier so the tomatoes don’t go bad in the fridge, we can move it to Monday. If on Wednesday we get invited out to eat with friends, we can save that spaghetti until another week. Super easy to shift things around.
Simplifying this process has been life changing for me and my family. When I hear the question “What is for dinner?” I don’t cringe. I simply check my list and move on. So much less stress!
Here are my final two pieces to remember to make this the most successful:
Make this a habit!