By LaToya Edwards
I have this problem: my children like to eat. I mean 4 or 5 times a day they are asking for a meal or a snack. I bet you have the same problem at your house.
As a new mom I really struggled with getting meals planned, bought and cooked each day. I remember trying every single method of planning and prepping that I read about. I was so overwhelmed that I just didn’t know what to do. I wanted to have healthy meals for my boys but I also didn’t want to spend hours and hours each week clipping coupons and searching for deals.
So one day I sat down with pen in hand and come up with a really simple way to meal plan that has worked for me over the past few years. Are you ready?
Step 1: Make a list of your favorite meals
This step is going to take a little bit of time but I promise that it’s worth it. When I sit down to start meal planning I also like to have a list of all of our favorite meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. Yes, it’s a long list but it’s so helpful.
I try to make sure that I have at least 7 meals for breakfast, lunch and snack. And I aim for at least 15 different meals for dinner. This way I can repeat the same menu for breakfast, lunch and snack each week if I need to and for dinner I can repeat after two weeks. My family doesn’t complain about eating the same meal more than once a month. In fact there are things like tacos that we eat once a week.
Lunch is probably the meal that I struggle with the most so I’ve just started planning for leftovers and I keep a few ideas floating around for days when my boys are extra hungry and don’t leave any leftovers.
Step 2: Make a meal plan
Once you have all your meals listed you are ready to create your meal plan. I use a Google Calendar for my meal planning. But you can use any method that works best for you: pen and paper, white board, chalk board, or other meal planning software/services.
Some families like to have themes for each night. So Monday may be pasta night followed by Taco Tuesdays. Another way to do themes is to figure out what your meat will be for that night (or plan a meat free meal). Find a system that works for you. When you have your themes/system in place just plug in meals for your list.
I like to plan for a month at a time but you don’t have to. And if you want to keep things really simple just create a weekly menu that you repeat each week throughout the month. As you get more practice with meal planning you can expand your plans to include more variety: 15 meals that you double for a month’s worth of food, 10 meals that you triple or even 3 months of meals that you repeat quarterly.
Step 3: Make a Shopping List
The final step is to make a shopping list. Now I’m not talking about a short list of what you need to get from the store for the week. I mean a Master List of everything that you will need to cook any of your meals. This includes spices, side items, things for quick meals, freezer bags, etc. If you use it in your home add it to the list.
Having a master list will help you in many different ways. The first way is that you can shop your pantry before heading to the store. As you make your meal plans for each week be sure to see what you already have in your home. There’s no need to go buy 5 boxes of pasta if you have enough in your home already.
I like to organize my list according to the store I’m shopping at. It helps me to get through the store easier and I also use the list to send my boys on errands throughout the store for different things. Another benefit is that it’s helpful if you ever need to send someone else to the store for you!