If I know what I’m going to eat, I feel like my whole day is planned.
I have a once-a-week ritual of meal planning that works well for our family, and I think it may work for yours, if you are looking for ideas about how to be flexibly organized when it comes to meal plans.
I start by cleaning out my fridge, making mental note of leftovers and produce that need to be used, as well as tossing anything that needs to go. Next, I look at our calendar, considering any special events that may alter our routines. Armed with this information, I am ready to sit down with my meal planning calendar.
The first meals I write down are ways of using up leftovers and produce, as well as meals that I didn’t make from the previous week’s plan. Then, I fill in the remaining days with meals that use our freezer stash, recipes that I want to try, foods that I think will round out our week nutritionally, and tried-and-true meals that I know we like. If I’m short on ideas, I grab a cookbook and choose something new to try. I limit us to one “splurge” meal (that requires expensive ingredients) each week to help us stay within our grocery budget. Freezer meals help us to eat at home, even on busy days. I also usually plan a “flex” day for eating leftovers or eating out, as we desire.
At this point, I have written down a dinner plan for each day of the week. I look back over it, working through a mental checklist, editing as I find flaws in my plans.
- Are we eating fish? We try to eat fish at least once a week. I usually schedule this for the day that I plan to grocery shop, so we can buy and eat the freshest fish possible.
- Are we eating any international meals? We want variety in our diet, both for ourselves and our little one. To help accomplish this, we try to eat authentic international foods every week.
- Is our protein source varied? To ensure a variety of micro nutrients, I do not plan for us to eat the same protein source on consecutive days.
- Is there at least one meal that I am looking forward to? While I don’t think food should be all about fun, I know from experience that a week full of boring meals turns into a week full of eating out more than is good for our health and our budget.
Perhaps the most important thing to acknowledge is that our meal plan is flexible. It changes when our week does not go as planned, but it helps me feel organized. It also keeps me from going to the grocery store more than once a week, which is key to my sanity and productivity.