As long as I can remember, meal planning, prepping, and making has been a struggle for me.
I think it comes down to the fact that I simply don’t love cooking.
Sometimes I think I’d like to learn all the basics and become a really great home cook, but then other times (most of the time, if I’m honest), I don’t feel up to the task. I have plenty of other things going on in my life that keep me busy, and at this season, I’m really happy with quick fix meals.
Now don’t get me wrong. As much as I like fine dining, I save it for dates with my man or occasional outings with my friends. At home, one-dish, crockpot, sheet pan, and Instant Pot meals are my go-tos on most days. And of course, I want them to be a good mix of quick and easy, healthy, tasty, and budget friendly.
That’s not too much to ask? Right?
Anyway, I know I’m not alone in my struggle when it comes to learning how to simplify meal planning. In fact, I get emails all the time from women just like me who want to learn how to make it easier in their homes as well.
In the past, I’ve shared a lot of articles about meal planning.
- 4 Steps To Meal Planning Made Simple
- Cleaning Out & Organizing My Recipe Binder
- The Never-Ending Search For Healthy Kids Snacks
- My Battle For A Healthy Breakfast
- My Weekly “Meal Prep Day”
And while I do still practice a good bit of this information, every once in a while, I find a new tip that is really helpful to me, and I want to share it with you in case you find it helpful as well.
And that, my friend, is what brings me to today’s post.
I have a meal planning tip that I’ve known about for a while, but for one reason or another, I’ve never fully integrated into my weekly meal planning process — until now that is. Read on, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Simplify Meal Planning for Good
Okay, folks. This is going to blow your socks off (not really). Are you ready?
Keep a running list of your family’s favorite meals.
Yep, that’s it. I told you it was going to blow your socks off.
While I’ve heard of keeping a list of favorite meals before, like I said earlier, for some reason I never tried it. I think it was because I like to eat a wide variety of meals, not having the same thing too often. Perhaps this is why I’ve avoided the whole favorite meal list for so long.
However, when I was recently complaining to my husband about all the work it takes to make meal plans, shop for foods, and then make meals only for the people living in our house (who shall not be named) to complain about them — he suggested making a list of meals that we all like and then cycling through them, thus, avoiding complaints, and in turn, making meal planning a bit easier on me.
Genius, I know, but obviously not my genius.
So after creating a favorites list of lunches and dinners and using that to guide my meal planning for the last month or so, I have been really impressed with just how easy it has made my life. Not only have I saved time planning out what meals to make for the week, but I’m getting zero flack about the foods as well. Win-win, right?
Okay, so now that you know what I’ve been doing to simplify meal planning in my home, let me share a few more tips that has made (and will continue to make) this easier on me.
First, I keep my favorite food list handy. In fact, it’s right in the front of my meal planning binder alongside other helpful bits of information, such as my real foods list, seasonal food list, ingredient substitutes lists, etc. When it’s time to plan meals for the week, I pull out my binder, and voila — my favorite meals list is front and center.
Next, I plan to keep it updated regularly. There are currently 25 or so meals on it, and each week, I plan to add one new meal to my meal plan to try out. If it’s a hit with the family, the recipe will go in my meal planning binder, and the meal will be added to the favorite meal list. If for some reason, I make something, and everyone is sick of it — this happened to us with chicken quesadillas recently — I will remove it from the list so it doesn’t make it onto the meal plan for a while. Make sense?
Also, I plan to expand this list over the year and eventually divide it into seasonal favorites. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like repeating the same foods too often. Once every 2-3 weeks is good for me. With that said, I’d like to have my favorite food list divided into four seasons to make sure we’re making the most of seasonal meals as well.
Lastly, I think it would be helpful to save each week’s meal plan, 4 weeks total, and repeat it each month — swapping out the new recipe each week — to simplify meal planning a bit further. While this would take some time to get to, I do think it’s a great goal and totally doable. I mean, imagine if you had enough summer meals (4 days for favorite meals, 1 day for a new recipe, 1 day to eat out, and 1 day for leftovers) to create a 1-month meal plan that you could repeated for 2 more months. Think about how much time that would save you. Not only that, but you could even save each week’s grocery list and make shopping during repeat months much easier as well. Again, I think this is something I’d like to eventually get to. We’ll see if I can make it happen and how it goes. I’ll keep you updated.
Alright, friend! I hope this little tip on how to simplify meal planning has been helpful to you.
If this is something you already do, I’d love to know if you have any tips you’d like to share with me in the comment section below.
And if it’s something you plan on doing sometime soon, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you once you get it going!
Love and light,
PS. Stay tuned for an upcoming post all about how I’ve simplified grocery shopping to make things easier on me as well.