Meal planning is one of those things that can take up a lot of time. Even when you do it every week, it still doesn’t get any easier, and sometimes it just doesn’t get done. If you don’t do a plan, then the week following is chaotic, filled with fast food and multiple trips to the grocery store.
I came up with a system that takes 80% of the work out of meal planning. Instead of sitting at the table with my cookbooks or iPad, looking for inspiration, and coming up with nothing, I decided to take most of the guesswork out, and create a master plan.
My solution was to give each day a category:
Mondays are always Chicken days.
Tuesdays are Stir Fry days.
Wednesdays are Slow Cooker/Soup/Stew days.
Thursdays are Burger/Pizza days.
Fridays are Pasta days.
Saturdays are BBQ days (in the summer).
Sundays are Special Dinner nights (this gives me the flexibility to try those new recipes that don’t fall into any of the above categories).
By following this system, you take most of the decision making and stress out of the meal planning process. So on Mondays, you only have to decide what side and veggie to cook with the chicken. Tuesdays – you only have to decide what kind of meat you will use for stir fry. Maybe the chicken from the night before, or maybe you will do a beef, or pork stir fry. Those decisions are fun, and not usually stressful! They also give you the flexibility to be able to take advantage of the local sales, and buy things that are on special to work into your plan.
I like to write down the plan, so that the others in the household are aware of what we are making, and what steps need to be taken to get dinner ready that day. It also helps to remind me if I need to take something out of the freezer in the morning for that night. I use this Menu – Week One template to help me track the steps that need to happen.
Sundays are used for prep (like getting chicken cooked, or soups made for lunches through the week, and cutting up veggies for snacking). I also like to clean out the fridge every week so that things are easy to find, and nothing old stays in there taking up space. If you clean it out every week, then it takes only about 10-15 minutes, instead of over an hour if you tackle it once a month or less. You can still do that deep clean periodically, but having order in your fridge just makes you feel like you have control over your meal plan, and removes a lot of the stress out of your food prep. Digging through half-rotting lettuce to find the ‘good stuff’ you bought that week is fun for no one.
So take the time to create your Master Meal Plan, and remove the stress out of meal planning. You will be so glad you did!