This is one of my favorite meal planning tips. Maybe it is my compulsive need to write things down or just the fact that a calendar full of meals is so satisfying. Whichever the reason, my family reaps the rewards with a plan for dinner every night! I actually have 2 calendars that I like to use and I switch back and forth depending on my mood. I love this meal planner journal style calendar. This calendar allows for more detail because it has separate sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and a shopping list! This isn’t always practical for the busy family but for those of us on a special diet or new way of eating, sometimes you need to plan out every meal. Another calendar option I have is this magnetic dry erase monthly calendar. This is a great way to keep your monthly meal plan out where all can see, plus it is super easy to switch days around or erase things. I usually write things in my meal planner first and then move them to my monthly calendar that is located in my kitchen. Once I have a month’s worth of dinners on this calendar, I take a picture of it with my phone for quick reference while I am at the grocery store or out and about.
One benefit I really enjoy about the planner is the fact that everything is written down and unless you throw it away, you have the option of going back and reviewing previous meals. This goes hand in hand with the meal journal (a notebook of your family’s favorite meals). It is so easy for me to forget what I made for dinner a week ago, let alone, last month. Life is busy and with 4 kiddos and the farm I am just trying to make sure everyone is fed something healthy before we start the bedtime routines. My meal planning time usually comes when I am finally able to crawl into bed after a long day. My brain is usually racing with things still to do and my meal planning brain is blank. I pull out this planner and start reviewing previous dinners. The inspiration starts flowing as I see all of the yummy freezer meals I have made in the past. I also pull out my current freezer meal inventory sheets to see what meals I have left as I try to avoid my freezer turning into a black hole. Once my creative juices start flowing or even if they don’t flow, I turn to a blank page in my planner and start filling it out. I first fill in the meals I have in my freezer according to what our weeks look like. An example of that: My daughter, Aurora, just started ballet class after school on Tuesdays. This cuts down on my time to prepare dinner, so on Tuesdays I make sure I have something in the crock pot or instant pot. Since most of the freezer meals are designed to be on the table in 30 mins or less, one of them is always a great option. Once my tricky schedule days are planned, I continue on to the rest of the week adding in more freezer meals and some meals that are family favorites. Tacos are something easy and while there is usually a meal I serve as a taco substitute in our freezer meal menus, we also love our faithful stand by – Wildtree Taco Seasoning and whatever ground meat I have in the freezer (ie. beef, chicken or turkey). Dinners are definitely a priority for me because we usually have some leftovers we can eat for lunch the next day. But breakfast is also important. I try to avoid cereal at all costs, yes; I do have some in my cupboard for emergency situations or Sunday mornings (that is my husband’s favorite before church). But during the week I really try to limit sugar and grains that turn to sugar in my little ones bodies. Yet, we can’t just eat scrambled eggs every day! The monotonous feeling of having the same breakfast every morning makes me feel like its ground hogs day. So, I also plan breakfasts and they generally look something like this –
Smoothie for Monday,
Grain Free Waffles on Tuesday,
Eggs on Wednesday,
Smoothie on Thursday,
Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins on Friday.
I hope some of these tips helped you. Meal planning used to be a major struggle for me and with the help of freezer meals, a meal planner/journal and a calendar, dinner can be a HUGE success.