The main issues I see families struggle with around meal planning are time, time, and then, time.
Time gets in the way of grocery shopping. Time gets in the way of preparing healthy foods. We feel like we just don’t have the time to plan what we want to eat and when. And then dinner time is always a struggle.
If you aren’t already, maybe it’s time take advantage of online shopping via Instacart, Amazon, or Shipt. There are so many great options now, including whole food options. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to shop healthy and smart, check out this blog post: Where, How, and Why to Source Whole Foods.
Food prep can be simplified by purchasing pre-chopped food kits. You can even purchase sliced organic apples at Costco. You can find meal kit delivery options that cater to gluten-free and paleo diets — there is something for everyone. If you’re curious about some of my favorite food prep hacks, check out this blog post: Easy Meal Prep Tips for Healthy Eating.
If we continue to let time get in the way, then we wing it. And when we wing it, refined convenience food is what we “prepare.” And that isn’t what we want for our families (for more on what we should feed our kids, check out this blog post: What Should I Feed My Kids?).
4 Easy Meal Planning Tips
Keep it simple, silly. Plan 3 – 4 solid dinners for the week. Nobody needs to win any awards here for turning out a June Cleaver-style meal every evening. Fill in the rest of the nights with easy staples, leftovers, smoothies, “you’re on your own,” or maybe takeout.
#2 Create a rhythm or use theme nights
Routine and structure are super helpful, so as much as we resist it. Take 10 minutes (not even) to choose a theme for dinners. A theme will give you some quick freedom in choosing recipes/meals.
- Dinner 1 = Mexican food night
- Dinner 2 = Italian food night
- Dinner 3 = seafood night
- Dinner 4 = breakfast for dinner night
If theme nights don’t work for your family, then create a rhythm that can be more loosey-goosey, such as:
- Church nights = pasta nights
- Mom-works-late nights = soup nights
- Sunday nights = salad & bagel nights
- Friday nights = takeout nights
Instant Pot night, crockpot night, soup/stew night, meal-kit night, hot sandwich night, or you fill-in-the-blank. You and your family have things you love about your week and things you don’t love. Have a conversation about how to make this work and get their feedback.
#3 Find your recipes
Social media (like Pinterest) is the fastest UNLESS you don’t have the discipline to get in and out quickly with what you need. For this, you could set an alarm for 5 – 10 minutes. From your above themes, you might grab the following recipes:
- Mexican = burrito bowl
- Italian = antipasto and tossed salad
- Seafood = salmon with pesto and brown rice
- Breakfast = egg bake and tropical smoothies
#4 Put together your ingredient list & SHOP
First, take a quick look at what you already have. I’m a fan of just ordering/shopping for what I need so I always have extra in the pantry.
Set a shopping day or order your groceries online.