Meal Planning 101

March 28 · 0 comments

in Cooking, Meal Plans

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Ever wonder what the big deal is about meal planning? Have you tried it a time or two & failed? Does it seem really overwhelming? You may ask yourself is it really necessary?  YES, it is.  You save money on groceries ($200 or less) and you don’t have to fretting at 3:30pm, wondering what you’re going to cook for supper. Well, I’m here to help you get back on your feet and give you the confidence you need to be the blessing you are to your family.

Let’s begin. You’ll need paper & something to write with and a calendar of your upcoming activities. We will start by making 3 separate lists, one for each meal of the day.  I will do this with you so you can see how to put it together.

In the first list, write down all the breakfast possibilities. You don’t need any more than 7 items, but feel free to add as many as you want. Here’s some items on my list…

  • cereal (twice a week)
  • toast (once or twice a week)
  • biscuits
  • Z bars (protein bars for kids made by Clif)
  • muffins
  • pigs in a blanket (breakfast sausage links in a crescent roll)
  • pop tarts
  • powdered donuts
  • cinnamon rolls

The last three items are treats to have at our house and I add those in as rotations as I feel so led 🙂

In the second list, write down lunch meals or ideas. Here, you also don’t need more than 7 items though you can add as many as you want. On my list, I have…

  • sandwiches (variations: PB&J, deli, hot meat & cheese, grilled cheese)
  • hotdogs
  • apples & PB
  • homemade lunchables
  • homemade bagel bites
  • pizza roll-ups
  • leftovers

When creating this list, there are a few things to consider.  Would you add any side items? I try to round off each meal by coupling them with fruit or dairy as necessary. The other thing to consider is making an allowance for eating leftovers. If I didn’t plan for us to eat leftovers, then they’d sit in the fridge and go bad. I’d rather not waste food if I can help it.

Moving on to the third and hardest list.  In this list, write down everything you know how to make by memory or at least very familiar with. Put stars next to those that are family favorites, dots next to those that are quick to make meals or “dump” meals, and either CP or SC next to you crockpot or slow cooker meals. I wouldn’t limit this list as this is the key to meal planning two to four weeks ahead of time.  My list looks like this….

  • shepherd’s pie
  • spaghetti
  • chicken pot pie
  • crawfish étouffée
  • taco soup
  • SC spaghetti casserole
  • SC beef stew
  • chicken & noodles with Alfredo sauce & broccoli
  • SC pot roast
  • chicken & rice casserole
  • cheesy chicken tortellini

I do a lot of research during the week to come up with ideas for the weeks ahead. I also use my Quick and Easy Dump Dinners cookbook that I bought from Dollar General. It has been super helpful in my meal planning adventures & I refer to it often.

Now that we have our lists filled out, the next step is getting something to put it all together. There are 2 main options: electronically or written. Doing it electronically, you can plug it straight into your calendar or you can download an application. If you choose to write it, you can use a planner or write it out on your own. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something simple.  Really & truly simplicity is the key to success (that & it being pretty to look at). I am a pen & paper kind of girl. I use a regular spiral bound notebook and write it out myself. It looks like this…

However, I know that having a guide is sometimes more convenient, so here is a basic printout for you to use. Go ahead and print it out, I’ll wait on you 🙂

We’ve got our format, our lists, the last piece to the puzzle is knowing what plans you have coming up for the next week or two. You’ll need to consider what events you have coming up: church, practices, school functions, etc. These are important to know so that you don’t plan for an extravagant meal on a day that you only have 30 minutes to eat.

Alright, are you ready? We’ll start with one meal at a time & fill in all of those for the week before moving on to the next meal. Go ahead and put in your breakfast meals. I tend to use the same pattern of breakfasts every week. Cereal on Monday & Thursday, toast on Tuesday, etc. That way I don’t have to think about it. I add in those special rotations to keep things interesting. Here’s what it should look like….

Got breakfast done? Awesome! Let’s move on to lunch.  Fill in those as needed. I also try to make a pattern out of these, but I sometimes see what others think and go from there. If we’ve got leftovers, I usually push that first so as to not take up anymore unnecessary space in the fridge. Here’s what I’ve got…

Are you ready to plan your final meals? Let’s do it! Alright. Take a look at what you’ve got planned for the evenings. Is there any day you won’t be home most of the day? Getting home by 3 is usually enough time to prepare and  cook a regular meal, but if you aren’t getting home until 4, then this would be the best time to incorporate your crockpot meals and pre-made casseroles. Go ahead and plug in your suppertime meals. Here’s mine….

At this point, you are halfway done.  Just finish filling out the bottom half of the planner. To keep it simple, input the same items for breakfast and lunch. Once you finish that, fill out supper with your other listed meals. Boom! Meals planned for two weeks.

Now take a gander at your fine work. What do you think? Be proud of yourself as you put it on the fridge.  Smile, you did it 🙂

It’s quite possible that doubt may start sneaking in. You may ask yourself: What happens if something comes up & I don’t get to cook my planned meal for supper? Remember, though it is called a meal plan it’s simply a guideline. If we start stressing out about it, it’s going to cause problems for everyone and we don’t want that. Above all, as God-designed help meets, we must be flexible. If something does come up, either push all the meals down a day or just remove that meal & reuse it for the next week. No big deal.

Test out your new meal plan for this week and let me know in the comments below how it goes.


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