Learn the method on how to meal plan an entire month in 5 minutes! It’s so fast and easy. Let’s get started!
Firstly – Why is it so hard to meal plan?
I honestly don’t understand why meal planning is so difficult. Legitimately, you should just be able to write down what you think will sound good in a week to eat, buy groceries and then – ideally – not throw away half of the groceries away a week later.
There are many methods I tried for meal prepping and meal planning and I always quit within a fairly short period of time because like most other things in my life, I found it daunting.
My least favorite is when there’s an ingredient that I don’t even know what it is and you know this is the ONLY time you’re going to use it. Talk about a waste of money.
I used to own probably around 30 cookbooks. And every now and then I would get this like determination, and by determination I mean more so a fascination with the idea of making these intricate, beautiful meals for my family.
So I would spend hours turning the pages, looking at all the pictures saying,”That looks good! That looks good… that looks good?” Maybe if I was really serious, I would even write a list of recipes that I liked down somewhere.
Then I’d pick up the phone and order take out.
My ideal self wants to pull out that cookbook and follow that recipe. But my non-detailed, very distracted, in a hurry reality self can barely pay attention to finish reading the directions.
Now I am in no means saying you can’t try new recipes and that you can’t have cookbooks and that you can’t vary the meals that you make in your house.
And honestly, I’m not telling you what to do at all because no one can tell you what to do. That is a blessing and the curse of being an adult and if you are a parent – a blessing and a curse of being in charge of little people.
Can I just say the little people are confusing, as we all know but when little people decide to eat things or not decide to eat things, it’s very, very confusing and even maybe a tiny bit frustrating.
If I want something to eat and the words “I want an apple” come out of my mouth, I generally still want said apple after the 25 seconds it took me to peel it. But that’s just me! No promises for the little chickens.
How do you simplify meal planning?
We have to do one quick exercise before we actually do the meal planning. Quickly make a list of meals that 1) you know how to make and 2) are quick and easy.
OR! If that sounded like a lot of work – I’ve already made my list and provided it to you as a free printable. If you’re looking for gluten, dairy and calorie free, sorry, no such luck BUT it is a list of easy, quick meals that most kids and families will like.
I honestly don’t know what’s more frustrating than making a meal and it not turning out. I’m sure there are some, but not that many.
I personally do very, very poorly with disappointment in life in general. It is really struggle to keep my expectations in a place that is realistic. I will try to expect less but for some reason with cooking, I can’t.
All of that to say, the meals on your list should ideally be meals that you know how to cook and it would be a “breeze” (HA) to whip up.
The meals on are my list are very simple. But that’s the whole point! There are quesadillas on the list. I know you can make a quesadilla. And there are ways to jazz up a quesadilla which I will show you in a future post.
Put PB&Js on that list because it’s totally fine! People LOVE a PB&J and you’ll feel great with an easy meal.
There’s fish on the list. All it says on there is “fish”. Because I want you to think of the way that you know how to make fish. How do you like your fish cooked?
One way that I really like my fish cooked, also this is shocking because I hated fish for like the first like 27 years of my life but anyway I actually really like salmon in the air fryer. I feel like it’s easy, it’s easy to clean, it doesn’t smell and those are all important things to me.
Maybe you grew up cooking fish in the oven with lemons and stuff on it. I don’t know! I just know that’s not how I cook fish.
There’s “chicken” on my list. There are 7,521 ways to make chicken and that’s probably just on the grill!
How do YOU cook chicken? What spices do you use? Maybe one way is pulled barbecue chicken instead of pulled pork. It could be you have stuffed chicken breast. Maybe you have chicken curry.
This is your list. And if you can’t think of a lot of meals, that’s great! You started it and you can always add to it when they come to mind or you learn something new.
If we’re going to plan a whole month of meals, you need one more thing….
Now that we have our list of dinner meals for a month, find a calendar. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one – it doesn’t even need to be a full year!
I’ve made a free printable calendar you can print out. I kept it real simple so you can use it over and over again. Please help yourself!
Once you’ve tried it and find this method works for you, investing in a calendar is fun.You can go get one at the dollar store or 98 cent store if you’re on a budget.
Eventually, I do recommend getting one that is better quality than the 98 cents store ones because the ink bleeds into the next page. You don’t want December to look like it has 9 meals in one day.
Time to Meal Plan a Month in 5 minutes!
It is now time to plug and chug my friends.
Take those meals you have, either the ones you wrote down or the list above.
If your family loves Tacos make Tuesday Taco a thing! If your family never complains when you put spaghetti in front of them, put spaghetti on every Thursday.
The nice thing about this is that you know your schedule and you know that on Mondays is soccer night and you don’t get home until 7:15, don’t put a casserole. That’s the day you make Panini’s.
Say Friday you guys are out of the house by eight and don’t get back until four, maybe that’s a great day to put something in the crockpot on low for 10 hours and then it is ready to go when you get home.
Remember, you are not tied down to doing tacos on Tuesday. If it doesn’t work that you can’t make tacos on Tuesday, make them Wednesday, you’ll just know you have the ingredients.
Once you have your month planned out, grocery shopping is so easy. Buy 1 weeks of meals at a time. Then it gives you seven days to make those meals.
Maybe that bag of spinach won’t go in the trash this week, right?
If the function you went to ends later than expected, and there is no time to start the grill and do burgers like you thought then tonight you do breakfast for dinner! Breakfast is fast and cheap. Gotta love it.
Then do burgers on the night you had breakfast for dinner.
Another tip is to leave one night a week blank for when you unexpectedly or very expectly go out to eat or had to grab something on the fly. You won’t be worried about a meal going to waste.
Sometimes it was easy to know when we would go out. One of my favorite things to eat in the entire world is buffalo wings and we would go to the same place every Monday because they would have traditional and boneless wings on special.
Now, I know you have question and I’m about to answer for you.
How do I meal prep the side dishes?
This is where we get to save money. Not because you’re not going to eat side dishes! But, because we’ll look at our local grocery store ads.
In my area, the new ad starts on Wednesday. Based on what’s for sale that weekend, I’ll go ahead and fill out my sides and then go shopping for the week. Generally, Thursday night I would buy all the food until the following Wednesday.
For example, say sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, oranges and watermelon are on sale this week. I’m going to put the brussels sprouts with my chicken meal, the sweet potatoes with my steak meal, the watermelon with tacos and oranges with sandwiches.
It’s that simple.
Once you have your list of meals and a calendar, it will take you 5 minutes to plan an entire month of meals with no weird ingredients, no recipes and so.much.less. stress.
PRO Tip: When adding meals to a specific day, say Saturday, I like to think of a theme. Theme’s could be slow cooker meals, simple proteins, sandwiches, pastas, casseroles, tacos (!), etc. as you’ll see below!
Here is an example of making October’s meal plan:
Step One: Tacos every Tuesday (Remember it doesn’t have to be the same kind of tacos, one week could be chicken, one week steak, one week hamburger meat)
Then Step Two: Take home Pizza’s from Aldi on Friday
Step Three: Protein Saturdays
Step Three: Sandwich Monday
Next, Step 4: Soup Sunday (or Oven, pressure cooker, slow cooker, whatever works for you!)
Step 5: Grill Out Meals on Thursday
Step 6: That’s it! I leave Wednesdays blank for flexibility and/or take out!
Here it is, friends!
Like most of the things in life, we over complicate meal planning.
Keep it simple, make it snappy!
Here are the meal planning tips listed out for you:
- Plan meals you know
- Keep them simple
- Repeat meals
- Use a calendar
- Don’t plan side dishes
- Leave at least one day blank
- Use themes to help think of meals
I really hope these tips help you not only meal plan, but made it simple and snappy! Remember to tag @simpleinasnap if you something inspires you!
Special thanks to Jules, my beautiful friend from work for helping me write out a beautiful calendar.
Until next time,
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