With our busy lives it can sometimes be difficult to eat as well and we’d like to and recently, I’ve found myself telling a lot of my patients about one of the best organizational things we’ve done in our house, meal planning! I am continuously commenting about how much I LOVE our meal plan and the many ways it saves us time and money.
We started by making a list of all of our usual dinner meals (chili, lasagna, meatloaf, tacos, etc.) and after a couple of days of thinking about it, we came up with around 30 different meal ideas. Some were fairly generic like “quinoa dish”, “squash dish”, “chicken” and “rice dish” which allows for some different recipes to be inserted depending on what we feel like that week but everything else was pretty well one of our regulars.
Cooking 4 times/week works for us. On the other nights we eat leftovers, we eat outside the home, we may just have a large salad or it might be a breakfast for dinner kind of night. Those nights are often when we try out new recipes as well.
So from there, I created a table. 30 meals, with 4 meals/week works out to be an 8 week meal plan! Now this table became a bit of a puzzle where I filled in the squares and spread around the different dishes so that we weren’t eating the same types of foods all in one week, so that each week has 2 meat dishes (yes, I eat meat) and 2 vegetarian dishes and so that my husband has two meals that he prepares and I have 2 meals that I prepare. The “meat” leftovers are for my husband and the veggie leftovers are for me. This takes care of my lunches for the week as well!
We keep this posted on the fridge and each weekend we have a look at what’s planned for the next week and we grocery shop accordingly and decide who’s cooking and on what night.
We recycle this winter meal plan 3-4 times throughout the winter. For the summer months, the meal list was modified to include grilled dishes and more seasonal foods replaced the root vegetables and warming foods. Our summer meal plan is 6 weeks and so we recycle that one 3-4 times through the summer months. Since we’re only eating the same dish every 6-8 weeks, we never get tired of a particular meal.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this helps us to eat healthier, more balanced meals! It makes grocery shopping so much more efficient and we rarely throw food away. Food prep becomes much easier since we’re organized and we don’t have to think up a dinner idea each night. This is my best tip for busy families wanting to make healthy choices!