Simplifying Meal Planning

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It’s hard to feel present and enjoy the moment if your moments are filled with the stress of a long to do list! A few years ago, my husband and I each arrived home from work at the exact same time. For the first few months, dinner was a nightmare! After spending twenty minutes looking through the cabinets and refrigerator, all while eating a snack because we were starving, we would finally decide on a meal that then took another twenty minutes to cook. This was obnoxious!

I had finally had enough! I sat down and came up with a plan. I listed out every dinner that we had ever eaten and organized them into categories. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I had created my weekly dinner schedule.

Are you a Happy Planner? You can use THIS punch to add your weekly meal planner schedule into your planner!

Find Your Categories

I realized that we ate three main categories: pasta, chicken, and beef. So, Monday night became pasta night, Tuesday night became chicken night, and Wednesday night became beef night. Great! But, what about Thursday and Friday? Thursday night ended up becoming wrap night, and Friday night became Pizza night.

When I share this schedule with other people, they always ask me if I get sick of eating the same thing each week. And, I suppose if I ate the same type of pasta every Monday that I would. However, after labeling each day with its respective category, I then went back to that generated list of every meal we eat.

Pasta: I eat pasta with meatballs, pasta with Alfredo sauce, ravioli, tortellini, stuffed shells, pasta with pesto sauce, etc. It was clear to me that within the variety throughout the week, there is variety within the day as well – even for people as picky as me (and my husband).

Make It Your Own

My hope in sharing this chart is not for you to copy it exactly, although you certainly can (you can download it below). I hope you see how I made my chart and feel as though you can make your own that works for you! It is an editable file so you can make it your own.

My husband and I have different schedules now and I am home an hour to an hour and a half before him. However, I still use this schedule because it truly simplifies my life. It makes deciding what is for dinner easy, it makes creating a grocery list predictable and limits our trips, and it ensures we don’t eat pasta every single night despite our deepest desires to do so.

Now, I’m not a total maniac with this schedule. Sometimes, we add in new meals that we want try. Sometimes, we take out meals we are sick of. Sometimes, we follow the schedule exactly but forget to take something out of the freezer and end up making boxed macaroni and cheese at the last minute – that’s life! I also never plan the weekends since our schedule is highly unpredictable on these days. But, overall, having the schedule does help simplify things. In the least, it’s nice to know that there is always a back up plan if we can’t come up with anything better!

Consider how many servings are in a package. Make the most of your money buy planning as many meals as you can from one package! If you’re buying a package of chicken cutlets, and you can get two meals from that one package, make sure you put two chicken cutlet meals into your rotation!

Big Batch Cooking

I make most of the meals that appear in my food schedule from scratch. So, after I grocery shop on Saturday, I spend Sunday cooking. I don’t have to do this every Sunday because I usually cook/bake in large batches. For example, when I make breakfast muffins for my daughter, I make enough to last the current week and enough to freeze for when muffins appear in a future week as well. Since I have everything planned out, I can date my freezer meals and keep track of when they appear next to ensure freshness.

It seems like a daunting task to begin; but like most things, once you start and you make it your habit, it’s not as difficult to maintain. You can do this!

4 thoughts on “Simplifying Meal Planning

  1. I love to plan ahead my meals! I normally just do a week at a time but in February I was in a fog and felt like I had no idea what we had been eating, so I made a tracker for several months. I use a list I have just like yours to fill in each week and then check my tracker for ideas if I’m not sure about what I want or for something I haven’t had in a while. My week sheet has my list written in on the other side so I always have my menu when I shop. So… Enter pandemic. I used my tracker to plan ahead so I knew how many dinners I had in the house since we wanted to avoid the grocery stores. Long story short (?) I like to plan ahead too 😂🛒

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