For the past 5+ years, I have done some meal planning for my husband and me. To be honest, I started doing this because my husband always wanted to know what we were having for dinner before I could even wake up enough to think about what I was going to eat for breakfast. Regardless of what your reasoning may be, I promise it does make life easier and once you get into the routine of it, you won’t be able to imagine life without meal planning.
There are plenty of more (or less) complicated ways to go about planning your meals, but I’m going to share with you what has worked for my little family. Please note, I meal plan for dinner ONLY. I know that some plan two-three meals a day and that is so great! But for our work routines and schedules, planning dinner only is the best, most realistic option for us.
- Create a calendar for the entire month (or even two months). Go through your regular calendar and add in any events or holidays that you already know about so you can incorporate that into your dinner plans.
- Save the past months! You could do this on the computer, but for whatever reason, I like to manually write out the calendar and fill it in. I utilize the old months to remind me of dishes we’ve done in the past in case I’m running low on ideas.
- Consider having some form of help. For us, that ‘help’ is Dream Dinners. We have used Dream Dinners for years, and I can’t say enough good things about them. I go in once a month and make our meals, take them home, stick them in the freezer and incorporate 1-2 Dream Dinners into our meal plan each week. This makes life so much easier. It takes the pressure off of having to think of something to cook 1-2 nights of the week! We are healthy eaters and have no issues finding healthy (and very tasty) meals at Dream Dinners. There are other (non-local) options like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, but I am all for supporting local, so I personally prefer utilizing Dream Dinners.
- Keep it simple. Maybe you have Mexican Mondays or Turkey Burger Thursdays. Aim to get something green in at each dinner. The easiest way for me to do this is to buy one huge box of spring mix once a week so that we can have a side salad with dinner a few nights that week and/or to keep the freezer stocked with plenty of frozen veggies that you can quickly steam or roast.
- If your budget allows, set a night or two a week for going out to dinner or for take-out. While we love to cook, it’s nice to have a couple of nights to look forward to going out for dinner or doing take-out and not having any dishes to clean! You may get burned out on the meal planning process if you try to plan dinner at home seven nights a week.
- Be flexible! If you get a last minute invite for dinner from unexpected out-of-town family, by all means, GO meet them for dinner! Keep your meal plan simple and flexible enough that this won’t be a big deal and you can utilize that dinner for another night that week or even to pack for lunch.
- Write it down! I tentatively plan two months at a time with paper and pencil, but I use a chalkboard in the kitchen to write down exactly what dinner plans are for the week.
Best of luck with your meal planning!