I have this pink notebook chocked full of page protectors stuffed with printed recipes. There’s the cake I made for my 26th birthday ( lime chiffon layers with whipped cream and fresh blueberries,) Mary’s lemon pie (Lance’s Grandmother,) and about a hundred others– not to mention the page with Rachael Ray’s Sloppy Joe’s which we made once a week in our first year of marriage. Though I don’t often cook from my little Pinterest board before Pinterest, it’s fun to look through. It murmurs of our early years of cooking and baking together in a tiny seminary apartment that boasted plenty of sunlight, but no dishwasher.
I’ve always had a love of cooking; still even something you enjoy can become work. There are days I grow weary of this daily task. And for those days, there is always grace… & breakfast for dinner. Amen.
Lately I’ve received a couple of questions on meal planning, so I thought I would share my method. My own way of meal planning is not incredibly intricate, it’s just a matter of doing it.
I’ve tried multiple meal delivery systems and PrepDish, but have found that the main way we eat better and within our budget is simply to plan ahead. The more full our life becomes, the more necessary a good meal planning system is. On the weeks that I am intentional in planning ahead, we eat and feel better and spend less.
So here’s my simple (not fancy) method of meal planning.
- Check our Schedule. I grab my planner and check our daytime activities, but especially the evenings. This is an obvious beginning, but in the past I’ve planned a full week of dinners and then realized we need to eat on the go three different nights.
- Check our Inventory. We probably keep more food on hand in our deep freezer than we need to, and it can get overwhelming. My first goal in meal planning, is always cooking from what we already have. This one simple thing, paying attention, cuts down on waste and takes some of the guess work out.
- Find Inspiration. Because we try to eat most of our meals at home, I can get in a cooking rut– fast. As much as I love Pinterest, I’m choosing my cookbooks first these days, though I usually have to limit myself to one at a time per week. My current favorite thing? Checking cookbooks out at the library. So many fun options.
- Buy It and then Stick to it. (as much as possible.) Once I make a list of what we need and it’s in the kitchen, I try not to deviate from the plan. I write our meals on this— and though it certainly isn’t necessary, it’s pretty and helps me remember what I planned.
- Take Time for Prep. Any prep work I can do ahead of time is HUGE. Many people spend time on Sunday doing this, but honestly I don’t. A slice of Sunday is always for planning for the week, meals included– so prep work comes later, more organically. One single thing that helps me greatly, is just having the produce prepped. I will eat 100% more vegetables, 100% of the time if they are prepped.
Bonus Sanity-Saving Tip. You will notice I do not start with Pinterest, or even cookbooks. Inspiration isn’t until #3 on my little list up there. Otherwise I tend to plan six different meals that look amazing and require all brand new ingredients, instead of the four pounds of ground turkey in the freezer which I bought last week when it was on sale. (#eyeroll.)
As with anything else, it’s not so much that there’s one genius way– but that you find what works for you. Want to share what works for you? Whatever method or tricks you use, I’d love to hear them!