The dreaded question – What are we having for dinner tonight??? What if I told you, you could have a quick and easy answer to this question every single night, with just 15 to 20 minutes of thinking and planning a month? It’s doable! And it has made my life so much easier!
A while back, we had a visitor to my Mom’s Group: a gal from a direct selling company that sold food products. But she wasn’t there so much to sell the products as she was to educate us on meal planning. I totally rolled my eyes and poo-pooed it. There was no way I was going to do something THAT CRAZY and plan an entire month of meals. It seemed impossible, completely anal, and unlikely to actually work.
But as she passed out the blank calendars and gave us practical tips, I started to perk up and see how this could actually apply. She said, “Get out your family calendar. You know what you have going on. So schedule meals around your life.” Ah ha! Schedule meals around my life? Instead of schedule my life around the meals? To me, it seemed revolutionary!
So here goes. At the end of every month, I plan the next month’s meals by creating a list in my Bullet Journal. It’s usually on the next page after my monthly calendar, so I can easily flip back and forth and see what I have going on.
I start with nights I know we are going to be gone – date nights and trips. I can easily jot down “out” or “date night” for these days. This starts my planning on a light and positive note, and makes sure my husband and I are planning a date night at least once a month.
Next, I look at weekend nights that we will all be home. I schedule in at least one family date night where we can take the kids out to Pops, our local eatery with yummy custard, or Portillos or something equally cheap and fun. I usually schedule at least one Friday night popcorn and apple night, where we pop in a movie and eat popcorn and apple slices on the couch.
Then, I look at nights we are going to be busy. Soccer nights, events at school, nights I have parties for my direct selling business. I jot down easy meals that take less than 30 minutes to prepare or slow cooker meals. These can be great nights for ravioli, frozen pizza and boxed mac and cheese.
I assign a couple of nights a month to my husband. He loves to cook, but doesn’t have as much time as I do with his crazy pharmacist hours. He can cook whatever he wants on these nights. He snaps a pic of the meal plan and actually uses it as wallpaper on his phone so he knows what’s going on and when he’s on deck.
I take 2 Tuesdays a month and schedule in Taco Tuesday with Walking Tacos the following Wednesday. (Please see my last post to read all about this awesomeness.)
Finally, I do the REAL meal planning. I’ve already filled up a lot of the days, so by the time I get here, it’s really not an onerous task. I look at my recipes and past months and I slot in meals,being sure to account for days we might have leftovers. Yay! Eat ‘em up nights! I’ve found that the more months I’ve planned, the easier it gets, because I can look back at previous months for SO MANY ideas. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll check my Pinterest folders and try something new or something we haven’t had in a long time. But let’s be real, with the busy-ness of life, this doesn’t happen too often.
I lay out my week in my Bullet Journal over the weekend and make a grocery list. I jot a little chef icon under each day of the week and write in what we’re doing for dinner so I don’t have to flip back to my monthly meal list. My husband or I hit the store on Monday to buy everything we need for the week and voila! I’m DONE! I don’t have to plan or think about food AT ALL for the rest of the week.
One suggestion I will make is this: Once you’ve planned your month’s meals, remember that it’s not set in stone. Stay flexible. With all our traveling in February, there have been a few nights this month where we’ve had a lot of leftovers in the fridge and haven’t needed the meals I had scheduled. When this happens, I remind myself that it’s all good. This meal system is in place to serve me, my family and our lives. The system should work around us, not the other way around. I just throw the meat in the freezer and find a way to incorporate any fresh veggies into a different meal that week, or eat them raw for snacks. Then guess what? We have a meal all ready to be planned for the next month!
It’s so awesome. This process really only takes 15-20 minutes a month to complete. And what a gift I have given myself! Instead of rushing to the store or thinking about what we’re going to eat, I have more time to focus on the things that really matter to me.
Emma’s spinning plates include momming, wifing, substitute teaching and running her small business with Trades of Hope. When she isn’t busy with that, she can be found bullet journaling, organizing, knitting, baking, traveling, reading, dating her husband and hanging out with friends and family, all while listening to music. She is British, an ongoing survivor of bipolar disorder and an avid Belieber.