I have such a love/hate relationship with meal planning. I mean, I LOVE having a plan in place (it makes life soooo much easier), but I don’t like having to sit down and figure out what to feed my family for the week.
About the only part of me that is creative, is the Southern cook in me. I love to experiment with things, figure out substitutions for stuff when I fail to realize I’m out of something. It gets me excited to problem solve and create something new and fun from something familiar.
But with our two boys having two different things going on on Mondays (soccer practice and Trail Life meeting) and then their Sunday school on Wednesdays, our weeks are getting pretty crazy over here. So, it’s essential that I create a plan that I can work to make sure that I’m still feeding my family a homecooked meal and one that they will enjoy.
So, I thought I’d share a few tips for meal planning for those that hate to meal plan like me.
1. Cookbooks, cookbooks, cookbooks.
I’m a huge fan of cookbooks. In fact, sometimes when I just don’t feel like cooking, I’ll open up one of my cookbooks and just make the first thing I land on. But the main reason that I love cookbooks is that I don’t have to write down any of the recipes and my husband knows exactly where to find them when he wants to make something!
I primarily use two cookbooks:
I also use my family’s cookbook which has recipes from everyone on my mom’s side of the family (super fun for making authentic German cuisine that my great-grandparents would make for their children!).
So, when I sit down to make our meal plan for the week, I open up my cookbooks and start dreaming big!
2. Family Favorites
You’ve probably already heard me talk a lot about this before, but it bears mentioning again – we have a family favorites binder that I keep in our pantry. Basically, the binder has the recipes of some of my family’s favorite meals, with the ingredient lists in the front so I don’t have to use my brain.
This binder really comes in handy when I don’t feel like cooking or being creative or sticking to my plan (it happens). I can just go look at the ingredients list and decide based on the ingredients and what I have on hand to make and since my family already loves those recipes, it’s a win-win!
***If you’re a new cook or someone that doesn’t yet enjoy cooking, stick to simple meals. Simple meals use simple, easy-to-find ingredients and don’t have complicated steps.
Some of our family’s favorite recipes are:
3. Know your week.
It’s really important for me to keep in mind our week’s schedule when meal planning. Like I mentioned earlier, with Mondays and Wednesdays becoming a little crazy and rushed, it’s difficult to be in the kitchen for an hour or more cooking. So I try to plan as many slow cooker meals as possible for those days, or something that is super quick and easy to whip up.
P.S. This Mongolian Beef is ahhhhhmazing!!!
I just write down our meals in my planner and then I’m good to go! And no, I don’t plan out breakfast because I am not a breakfast eater and there’s not enough time in the mornings to cook my kids a full breakfast. So, we just do toast and fruit or cereal and fruit. Something easy!
For lunches, I typically eat a salad or leftovers, and then, of course, my kids eat whatever I’ve packed them off my list of school lunches (see this post here for how I plan out our school lunches).
Our baby is officially in preschool! I swear, the time just goes by way too fast!
4. Give grace and feed them PB&J.
Something that my OCD self-has had to learn the hard way is to give grace. And I don’t just mean giving grace to others, I mean giving grace to myself. I’m a super high D on the DISC personality scale, meaning that I go-go-go-go and then go some more until I physically just can’t anymore.
Obviously, this usually ends up leaving me completely burned out, and sometimes, I just can’t. I just can’t cook. I just can’t clean the dishes and I just can’t read the bedtime story. So when this happens, I give my kids a choice – leftovers or PB&J with fruit.
Usually, they just want a PB&J and are totally a 1,000x happy with that. The point here is to remember that you don’t have to do it all and fed is better than nothing. So if you don’t stick to the plan or just don’t feel like, throw down a sandwich or some leftovers and call it a day.
5. Freezer Cooking
Yes, this is life. Freezer cooking is perfect for when you forget to take out the meat the night before or you just simply don’t want what was on your meal plan and you don’t want to cook. This post here has way more on freezer cooking, but seriously, if you haven’t given it a try yet, you should!
So you tell me, what are your meal planning secrets?
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