I have an obsession with meal planning. By “obsession”, I mean I love the idea of meal planning, but the execution has always been a sticking point. In my experience and research, Meal Planning comes in one format.
Assign an exact meal or theme to a specific day or date.
This has never worked for me. Mostly, because life changes and I’ve never found that format to be flexible. So, I designed my own format.
Every week, I look at the schedule for the week and figure out how many nights dinner needs to be eaten at home (usually 5 – 7). Nights that I’m not home mean that my husband will be in charge of feeding our kid, which is covered by our grocery shopping “standard items”.
I would like to have a running list of 60 meals that I know my family will eat. Right now, that list is at about 40. Which means, I use Pinterest and Google to find recommendations for new things to put in front of them. Each week, I do 2 – 4 meals from this running list and 1 – 2 brand new meals. So, before I go grocery shopping, I look at what we have in our pantry, cabinets, fridge, freezer, and deep freezer. Then, I’m able to determine which meals will fit best.
With all of us being home, due to the Stay-At-Home Order in our state, I’m getting much more creative with meal planning, meal ideas, meal creation, etc. simply out of necessity. After I pick the meals I plan to cook, I make my grocery list based on what we are going to need to ensure those meals happen. Then, each day, depending on the weather, how we feel, what I feel like doing (how intense a meal is), I pick something from that list.
This way, I don’t feel pigeonholed into a specific meal on a specific day. It allows for the flexibility I need to maintain my sanity without feeling like I’m not meeting a super high expectation.
Another benefit of this style is that my husband can decide to cook dinner one night. He has a handful of meals that he can make beginning to end that are often a huge hit with our kid. I find these to be my favorite nights, too.