Would you think it strange if I said I think meal planning is in my blood? Every Friday morning, I sat at my parent’s kitchen counter while eating breakfast before school and watched my mom work through her grocery list.
She would go through the pantry, freezer, and fridge, and if she came up blank on a dinner idea, she asked me if I had any suggestions and usually used the dinner idea I suggested to fill the gap in the week. And then I’d watch her as she filled out her little piece of paper, organized her list in order of the layout of the store, and finally went through her coupons, making sure things were ready for when she would go grocery shopping later that morning.
Every Friday morning around 11:30, you could find her at our local grocery store. I have a lot of respect for the time she put into planning our dinners and keeping food on the shelves of our pantry, always making sure we had snacks, fruits, vegetables, you name it. I can honestly say, so much of what I learned about meal planning and grocery shopping, I learned from watching her. She never needed to teach me, because her example was enough.
Grocery Shopping Options Today Can Be Overwhelming
Today, we have a lot more options to make grocery shopping and meal planning easier for us. We can shop online and browse sales and clip electronic coupons all from our computers or phones. We also have SO. MANY. RECIPES. at the tips of our fingers! That should all make meal planning simpler…but still today there is a struggle to grocery shop and meal plan successfully.
I get it! Grocery shopping (as in, purchasing the items on a list) is relatively easy. But pair grocery shopping with actually planning out a menu, translating that menu into dishes, and then breaking those dishes down into shoppable ingredients (totally setting aside nutrition, dietary restrictions, schedules, budgeting, coupon clipping, etc, etc, etc)…it’s easy to understand why it gets complicated and even overwhelming for so many of us!
Considering that we’re embarking on a new year (and a new decade, I guess!), you might be feeling like it’s time to figure this meal plan thing out and get control of the situation. I’m here to share a few recommended routines that will equip you on this journey of creating a consistent meal plan that you can feel good about each week.
Meal Planning Routines:
- Evaluate your freezer, fridge, and pantry. I recommend starting this season fresh with cleaned out spaces. Remove expired items and take note of any meats that should be used up or items you’re low on in your pantry.
For example, in my freezer, I like a variety of proteins. In my fridge, I keep greek yogurt, eggs, and plenty of cheese, and in my pantry, canned tomatoes (all varieties, including pasta sauce), beans, pastas, rice, and broths. Josh and I always say that if you’ve got eggs, you’ve got dinner! Or breakfast. Or lunch. Or a snack. Eggs!!
- Write out (or take note of) recipes or dinner ideas that come to mind that use ingredients you can always keep on hand. It’s okay to make spaghetti that’s not homemade. I do it a lot, especially on busy nights, and if it helps you stay on budget, that’s important. In fact, it’s being a good steward of your finances!
- If it’s helpful to you, plan theme nights. Every Friday, we have pizza. Sometimes I make homemade pizza, but if I’m honest, we’re usually picking up a take and bake pizza because by Friday I’m tired and need a break from cooking (thank you, Papa Murphy’s!). Taco Thursdays or Tuesdays are always fun because you can make anything that is Mexican-themed…and there are just so many options for that. Don’t believe me? Just check out my Mexican recipe index on my blog!
- Ask your family if there are any special requests…but limit the catering to picky eating. This is about sharing the burden of thinking of dinner ideas every single week with the other creative minds in your household – you’re not a short-order cook! Unless there is a food allergy, they should at least try everything on their plate…even if it is a smaller portion. If you’re feeling stuck, the world is your oyster! Cookbooks, Instagram, Pinterest, and food magazines are filled with recipes galore! And, just putting it out there, but yours truly does post a weekly menu full of ideas (well, more often than not).
I hope these routines help you feel empowered and encouraged in your pursuit of feeding your family well.
And if I can just gently add, don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new. When in doubt, don’t ever underestimate the power of breakfast (or nachos) for dinner!
“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”
Chelsia, Catz in the Kitchen
Chels is a born-again believer who dreams of living with all four seasons in Central Oregon. She’s a wife and stay at home mom to her four vivacious kiddos whom she home schools. When she’s not schooling or chasing after her munchkins, she enjoys reading, bubble baths, and finding clothing/kitchen treasure at thrift stores. But more than all of that, she finds refuge in her kitchen where she and her husband can be found cooking and baking up a storm for their family and friends. You can read more about her culinary endeavors at CatzintheKitchen.com.