I was recently asked about how I plan our meals so I thought I would share here – both for my friend that asked – and for anyone else who is interested. First, a disclaimer: we do not always eat all of the meals I plan for the week. Life happens. T-ball practice gets cancelled so we decide to eat after the kids. Mike comes home and suggests we take the kids to Delaney’s. Whatever I have planned just doesn’t sound good. You get the idea…
Each week, usually on Saturday or Sunday morning, I look over our schedule for the week and send Mike an email that outlines everything we have going on that week – for both sanity and so I don’t have to repeat myself a million times throughout the week. Once I know what our schedule looks like, I make the meal plan for the week. Crockpot and easy meals when I suspect Mike will be home late or there is an afternoon activity on the schedule such as a playdate, t-ball, etc. Usually, I take whatever meals we didn’t manage to eat the previous week and automatically assume we will eat them the following week.
We keep a running grocery list of items needed on the counter next to the stove. As we run out of staple items, I put them on the list. There is always something on the list – usually within minutes of returning from the store! I don’t plan out specific breakfasts or lunches for the week. For breakfast, the kids typically choose some combo of leftover waffles from the freezer, cinnamon bread toasted, bananas or other fruit, smoothies, cereal, eggs, or oatmeal. We always have these items on hand. For lunches, it’s basically another short list – fruit, yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter crackers, cheese and crackers, grilled cheese, leftovers, and just basics that we have on hand. I will need to be more organized for lunches next year as all three kiddos will be taking their lunch to preschool. Today, they had half of a kiwi, carrot shreds, a piece of string cheese, fresh banana bread with butter, and milk.
The meal plan above is for this week and I went to the store yesterday afternoon to pick up the items needed (Mike usually goes at least once during the week too). Tonight, after the kiddos go to bed, Mike and I will have cashew chicken, rice, and a veggie (probably broccoli). The kiddos are having pasta, yogurt, watermelon, and a veggie. On Tuesday, we’ll eat together early since Bo has t-ball. On the agenda is crockpot pizza, breadsticks, and salad. And so it goes. We are having friends over on Saturday night, so I have a few extra items on the list and Sunday has become our pizza and movie night, so that evening stays pretty consistent. Typically we have pizza and strawberries.
You’ll notice on my menu plan there is also an area I labeled “Other”. If I know I’m making a snack for a playdate, baking something, or trying something new, those usually go in the “other” column. Mostly so I won’t forget to make them after I’ve picked up the ingredients. I made banana bread with some older bananas this morning. I’m also planning to make avocado fries this week (probably with regular fries as well on Wednesday with our tuna bunwiches) that I found on Pinterest. Where else? Last week, I baked several times for playdates. These extras vary each week. If I know I need to make a batch of waffles for breakfast one morning, I usually add that here too.
I’m not sure if this is really helpful or not. Mostly, I just try to keep a running list of items we need and at least have a plan of some type so it isn’t 5:30 and I have no idea what to cook. Having the list on the wall in the kitchen (inspired by Pinterest, of course) also helps me to remember to put meat out, start crockpot meals, etc. in the morning.
How do you meal plan for your family? Do you write out all meals or just plan dinner? Any tips or tricks to share?