How I Meal Plan

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I feel like at this point I’ve explained how I meal plan to more than one person, so I thought I might write a blog post about it. How I meal plan is like sort of how other people plan, but also sort of my own style. So, here is my meal planning “system” I guess you might call it.

I don’t know how many of you know this, but cooking is not my strong suit. I knew how to do very basic things when we were first married, but harder things intimidated me and we were eating a lot of pre-packaged foods because I could follow the instructions on a frozen pizza or a box of mac n cheese.

Well, especially when Dominic was born, I really wanted us to eat more variety and healthier. But I needed to teach myself to cook. I figured if I can follow the instructions on a box, surely I can follow a recipe.

So my menu planning was sort of designed with this in mind. It was designed for me to be able to learn new recipes. And also because, if I don’t meal plan, there tends to be a lot of whiny (from me) at dinner time about not knowing what to cook or eat. I needed to decide everything ahead of time for the week, when I wasn’t stressed and tired. This removes a lot of the thinking element from the day to day decisions about eating.

So what I did first was sit down and write out all the main dishes/lunch/dinner meals I could think of as well as all the breakfast meals I could think of. It even includes obvious things like cereal. Because I didn’t want to have to reinvent the list all over again every week. And if I have to think of half of it because those are the “obvious” things, that’s extra mental work I have to do. By the way, everything on the list I can cook from memory, without following instructions or with very minimal instructions. Example, when I added French Fry Onion Chicken to my main dish list – a new meal that I had tried – I wrote down the time it took in the oven and the temperature of the oven because those are the parts I’m likely to forget, but I know all the ingredients and steps by heart or they come with directions (yes, we still eat frozen pizzas). For me, that’s what it takes to make it on my list because I want to spend my thinking energy when I cook on the new recipes, which I’ll talk about in a second.

So, I decided that in order to teach myself how to cook, I would try a certain number of new recipes every week.

By now, I have my master lists and I have my new recipe sources. My main recipe sources are cookbooks, magazines, free Kindle cookbooks, and Pinterest. So what I do first is I write down the days of the week along with a spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t want to do this, you can buy pads with tear off sheets (I’ve found these in the Target dollar spot before and I’m sure they are in other places as well) or there are tons of printable ones out there for free as well. You can find them with or without a grocery shopping list. I like it without a grocery shopping list because I find my grocery shopping list takes a lot of abuse.

Then, I fill in whatever new recipes I want to try, whether they are breakfast or dinner recipes or what have you. Then, with whatever blanks I have left, I fill in recipes from my master lists. This way I know that I can focus all of my cooking energies on the new recipes and the rest of the time the cooking is relatively easy.

And you can definitely tweak this plan if you want to do it around what’s on sale. It can also be tweaked for any special dietary concerns that you have. This is the biggest advantage to building it from the ground up. It’s pretty flexible and that’s why it works for me. I’ve been meal planning this way for . . . I’m not sure how long but at least 3 years. Every weekend, this is what I do. Oh and as far as creating my grocery list, I do that as I go along. Every time I write a meal down on the menu plan, I immediately check what we need. Then I immediately write down the ingredients on my list. If I don’t do it immediately, I find I forget things.

I took a picture so you guys can sort of see an example. Ignore the fact that I spilled something on the breakfast list once upon a time. Keeping it real haha! I do rewrite these master lists occasionally if they change substantially or they get beat up a lot.

Meal Plan

Anyways, I hope this helps! That’s how I meal plan.

Do you meal plan? What have you found to work for you? 

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