These easy meal planning tips make “what’s for dinner” easy to solve and still allow flexibility for what you’re in the mood for.
If you follow me on Facebook you may already be familiar with my occasional change in grocery shopping and meal planning routines. I didn’t anticipate it taking over a year in our new home to find what works but it was a struggle to find something that fits just right. I’ve never been spectacular at making a meal plan and sticking to it, and ever since we moved grocery shopping on budget has been tough – really tough.
And it’s all discouraging. At the end of the day (what’s for dinner?) and the end of the month (I’ve got nothing left OR I blew the budget) shouldn’t be a thing to dread. This is especially true since I already know what’s in my pantry and freezer and have the tools to make what I need. I just needed to create my grocery shopping plan, organize my pantry, and simplify everything for easy meal planning.
Grocery Shopping Plan
It’s always good to have a plan and be organized. We sat down and analyzed what was working before we moved and why it worked. Then we recognized what needs we still had to make our kitchen and pantry run smoothly.
Much of it came down to 2 things – proper storage and a good source for buying bulk. We fixed the pantry setup and organized everything so it’s easy to find what I need at a glance. It more closely replicates what we had before we moved so now it’s a space that works for me. I also sat down and wrote out where we buy our main supplies, how much they cost, and how long they last. This way I can make sure to plan ahead for the month or couple months in cases of bulk buys like beans. The next thing I need to do is research good bulk buying sources since it isn’t practical to spend a day in PA driving around buying bulk to bring home. I’ll have patience with this one but it’s on my list for the first quarter so I know it will get done.
The final thing I am working on with this is trying a new app that Tabetha, a Facebook follower friend, shared with me called “Out of Milk“. It allows you to create a shopping list, adds up how much you spent as you shop, and allows you to move it from the shopping list to your pantry. Then as you use things you can check them off and move them to the shopping list. So far I’m loving it. I just need to get in the rhythm of using it consistently and set up my supply lists of things I buy at different stores (currently in Google Keep) so I can streamline better.
Easy Meal Planning
Once we had our grocery shopping and pantry storage figured out we needed to find an easy meal plan that works for our family. I’m not so great with setting a specific meal plan each week because sometimes what I planned to buy wasn’t a great deal so I skipped it, something changed in our day to make the planned meal difficult to pull off, we invited someone over for dinner last minute, or I just wasn’t in the mood for whatever it was.
Now, I can’t fix all that – like what I’m in the mood for – but I can simplify my meal plan enough to be flexible and allow me to feel successful rather than a fail night after night. So here’s what I did. I pulled together the list of what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and my grocery shopping style, and I made a meal plan that accommodates as much of these things as possible.
- K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple silly.
- Instead of setting a specific theme or dish for each day/meal I am setting specific items. For example, Sunday dinner is beef, potatoes, veg. Some days I may swap potatoes for pasta if I have enough supply to do so, but this way I can decide to make what we’re in the mood to eat that has those ingredients – provided I have the rest of the ingredients to make it. This week I loaded up on bell peppers because my husband wants stuffed peppers.
- Write it out in as many places as you need to for 24/7 access. My meal plan is in my planner, on my phone, and listed on my menu board in the kitchen. If anyone else wants to make dinner they know their parameters. If I’m out and about without my planner I have easy access to it. This is key to my success since we are on the go frequently or someone else steps in to make dinner (like Dave or a kid).
- Consider what goes on in the day and plan accordingly. Since we take turns doing a main dish for potluck on Tuesday night I know I want to streamline and keep Tuesday nights simple with soup or pasta, which both stretch well for a crowd. Since we are more likely to have company for Sunday dinner I don’t plan beans as the protein. I chose beef.
- Organize your meal plan and kitchen enough to know what you need in a matter of minutes. Having a general meal plan makes it easy to glance through for what you need then looking at your organized pantry/freezer lists will make it easy to go through the fliers and know what you need for the month. Then you can buy things ahead on sale or scoop something marked down at the grocery store like the carne picada for $2 off at ALDI today.
My Easy Meal Plan
- Breakfast – Quiche
- Lunch – Beef, potato, veg
- Dinner – snacking – veggies, popcorn, ice cream
- Breakfast – Kids – Oatmeal – Adults – egg sandwiches and/or smoothie
- Lunch – Salad
- Dinner – Beans, rice, veg
- Breakfast – Smoothies and toast
- Lunch – Kids – corn dogs/ravioli/potstickers and veg – Adults – leftovers
- Dinner wk. 1 and 3 – Soup and Cornbread – wk. 2 and 4 – Chicken, pasta, veg
- Breakfast – Kids – granola and yogurt – Adults – sauteed veggies and eggs
- Lunch – Soup
- Dinner – Vegetarian, quinoa
- Breakfast – Kids – oatmeal – Adults – granola and smoothies
- Lunch – Sandwiches, veggies
- Dinner wk. 1 and 3 – pizza and salad – wk. 2 and 4 – soup and bread
- Breakfast – Muffins, eggs, protein
- Lunch – Salad or leftovers
- Dinner wk. 1 and 3 – chicken and roasted veg – wk. 2 and 4 – beans and roasted veg
- Breakfast – pancakes/waffles/French toast, protein, fruit
- Lunch – Grilled cheese and soup or veggies
- Dinner wk. 1 and 3 – Fish, rice, veg – wk. 2 and 4 – sausage, potato, veg
My goal with this meal plan is to simplify my life and take out the common stumbling blocks that set me up for failure. My hope in sharing it with you is that it will inspire some of you to change things up that aren’t working and give you an idea for how YOU may be able to simplify your meal plan too.
Does this seem like it would make your life easier? If you have another area that makes easy meal planning a struggle, leave a comment and let’s find a solution.