Before I show you a close up look of what my meal planning systems (current and past) look like, I thought it was important to share with you some important components to meal planning… These apply to any Meal Planning System…
Why Meal Plan?… If you missed my first Meal Planning Post Click Here to read “Meal Planning: One way I keep my Sanity”
There are 3 VERY IMPORTANT things I tell everyone that wants to start meal planning:
1) Be Flexible! Be aware that your first go around wont have a perfect fit. Your meal planning system will need to be tweaked to create the best fit and will change as your family changes and as you see what does and does not work.
2) I don’t recommend starting a meal planning system in conjunction with a major diet change. First create a plan that fits how you live and make adjustments as you go. The best way to set yourself up for failure is to try too many changes all at once. I understand there are medical issues that come up and force a fast change but that is usually the exception.
3) Give yourself grace and take a deep breath: When I started our newest system of meal planning I was excited about the change and then WHAM! we all got hit by the flu. No one could eat what was on the list, we ended up all eating chicken noodle soup and crackers for several days. Instead of chalking it up as a failure I just did a restart. Life Happens… give yourself grace, take a deep breath, get a long hug from someone who loves you and smile.
The most common question I get from people is about time. How much time does it take to meal plan?
First of all, anything worth doing takes time and effort. This is no exception. Every time I have totally revamped my Meal Planning system it has taken about 3-5 hours of sit down work (depending on the system I am using). I don’t do this in one sitting. I plan some, mull it over and think about how this will really work in reality. Then I take some more time with it.
After the system is up and running it takes me about 20-30 minutes to plan a couple weeks worth of meals and create my shopping list. This is assuming I am not integrating any new recipes or events and assuming my children don’t have a sudden crisis in the middle of the process. This is nothing compared to the time I used to waste on multiple shopping trips and the time I would stand in front of the pantry having no idea what I was going to cook.
I have compiled the following list of what I have found to be important components of Effective Meal Planning no matter what the system is that you choose.
Important Components of Effectively Meal Planning
1) Be detailed. Plan meals and snacks.
2) List what you have in the freezer or perishable before making menu.
3) Be Honest with yourself! You don’t have to cook complex meals, if you want to eat out or eat a ready-made meal…put it on the calendar.
4) Don’t set your standards too high. If it is a hectic week plan easy meals… even if it is frozen pizza.
5) Think in terms of leftovers. Can you make something else out of the leftovers?
6) CHECK YOUR SCHEDULE: Look at any events that might affect meal times. If you have soccer practice, rehearsals, meetings…. Schedule something that is easy or in a crock-pot. Fit the meal to the day.
7) List all your ingredients: Make sure you have a place to list EVERY ingredient you need to eat that week, include the things you already have. After you have planned your week go through your pantry and fridge and cross off items you already have. This will allow you to put together an organized list and cut down on shopping trips.
8) Have a running grocery list on the fridge or other family accessible area. Check this list before going shopping.
9) Have a backup Plan: Keep an easy backup/no thawing required meal in the wings for days when the day goes sideways.
10) Be flexible. If you need to switch a night that is okay. I stick to my plan as written about 75% of the time. I often switch meals based on need or desire. I don’t change the calendar.
So, What does this actually look like? In Parts 3 and 4 I will share my current and past system of Meal Planning (with lots of pictures and info) and I will share some wonderful resources for you to explore. Stay Tuned! 🙂
If you haven’t been following the series you can check out the previous editions by clicking on their titles below:
To Continue in the Series…
The Frabjus Lady