Welcome to the second post in my meal planning series! If you’re just joining us you might want to take the time to read the first post in this series, as it will help you to organize and prepare your recipes for planning. (This isn’t to say you have to read it and and get organized before meal planning, but it certainly does make it easier!)
It’s finally time to make your meal plan! Your recipes are organized and easy to access- you’re ready!
When I make my meal plan for 5 weeks I find it’s easiest to have “themed” nights. This doesn’t mean that when we have tacos we wear sombreros and play mariachi music (although I’m getting ideas…). What I mean is that each day of the week has a category which helps me to focus my plan a little bit. Planning 35 meals seems daunting at first, but when you break it down to 5 crockpot meals, 5 seafood meals, 10 chicken meals, etc., it gets a little less scary. Here’s a list of my themes-
- Sunday- Meatless (Soup, Pasta, Etc.)
- Monday- Seafood
- Tuesday- Chicken
- Wednesday- No Meals Planned (Bible Study Night)
- Thursday- Crockpot
- Friday- Leftovers
- Saturday- Fun Day (usually homemade pizza, jambalaya, hamburgers, etc.)
Just a quick note about my chosen themes- These themes work for us, they may not work for you. You may want an all beef night or soup night or… you get the idea. My husband can’t eat a whole lot of beef so it’s only worked in every once in a while just to mix things up a bit.
Another theme idea for you is Clean Out the Kitchen nights. These don’t have to happen regularly but they are good for the end of the month when you want to clean out before shopping again for the next month. (Don’t freak out- monthly grocery shopping is a whole other beast of a post! We’ll get to it!)
When I first started figuring all this out I needed some convincing that themed nights would actually improve my process, and then it took some time to figure out the right themes and arrangement; so I want to encourage you to give it some time to perfect your process.
The format of your meal plan is almost as important as the plan itself. A list of days and meals on a piece of notebook paper is not going to cut it. You’ll lose it, spill coffee on it, or forget to look at it! Your plan needs to be where you can see it and in a format that makes you feel like the organized, have-it-all-together lady (or guy) that you are! Currently I am using the dry-erase calendar and markers approach.
Here’s a step by step look at how I put my plan together:
- Write the month and number the days on the calendar. I use this one from Board Dudes and love it!
- Pull out all your favorite recipes from my recipe notebook. I organize them by kind so I keep them together. I just go through all the chicken ones and pull out what I think I’d like to make that month. Then do the same with the seafood recipes, crockpot recipes, etc.
- I then write down all my meals for every day Sunday, then Mondays, then Tuesdays, etc. I include vegetables and starches when I write down the meal. For example: a Thursday crockpot meal might look like this: Crockpot Cranberry Meatballs, Broccoli, Roasted Potatoes.
- As I write down my meals I jot down from the recipe anything I will need to pick up at the store. Do this as you go so it’s not as daunting!
Once everything is written down I finalize my shopping list, proudly display my menu on the fridge, and call it a day!
A Few Tips
Before making my plan I look in my refrigerator and pantry to figure out what I already have on hand so that I can use more of that in my menu and don’t have to buy as much that month at the store. Some people actually take the time to write down everything they have. I have found that this doesn’t really help me and just takes a lot of time. If it works for you, though, go for it!
I do all my major shopping once a month. Somewhere in the middle of the month I buy more fresh fruits and veggies. So at the beginning and middle of every month I plan for more fresh veggies and use my canned and frozen veggies during the other weeks.
Here’s a picture of my meal plan for January (and the beginning of February) for a little inspiration.
Mistakes and schedule changes happen! When I realize I need to change something about my meal plan because of planning failures or schedule changes I do one of two things- scrap that meal or move it to another day and rearrange things. Friends inviting us over for dinner, surprise illness, planning error, or spontaneity can all affect a meal plan after it’s been written. My advice is to roll with the punches and do what you can so salvage your plan. In the grand scheme of things it’s really not a big deal! So you eat leftovers for lunch instead and move Tuesday’s meal to Thursday, no problem! Your family is still eating and you are still preparing wholesome homemade meals for them! That’s what really matters here!
Does this seem like something you can do? I sure hope so! If you have any questions about my process, or if I didn’t make something very clear, please feel free to post questions in the comments below and I will do my very best to answer them promptly!