Hey Ya’ll! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I have a long list of things that I want to get better at, routines and systems to make for our family, and habits to improve. But I think I’ve got at least one down pat. I’ve finally managed to nail down a meal plan that works for our family! Yay!
For anyone who knows me well, you know that I’m not the best cook. Not that I’m bad at it- I can be really good when I put my mind to it. The problem is that my attention span for creative cooking lasts about 20 or 30 minutes. I would just rather be doing other things, and I know that cooking isn’t my forte and I’m okay with that. But I’m a mom and a wife and I also know that I need to put healthy meals on the table. So I’ve tried to come up with a menu system. Many, many times. I just couldn’t seem to stick to any of the systems I came up with no matter how hard I tried.
First I tried making a monthly meal plan where I planned out all our meals in advance. Then I tried making a new meal plan each week, then creating a grocery list and shopping for all the different items. Both times I would write everything out and carefully plan our meals. I made sure I had a visual menu somewhere in the kitchen so that I would remember to plan and cook the meals- I printed out a cute calendar and made a special menu binder. I also made a metal dry-erase menu board to put our meal plan on so that I could see it during the day.
But the amount of energy and attention it took to keep up with an ever-changing meal plan was too much for me. I didn’t have the time or desire to plan out a weeks worth of unique, healthy meals, then create a new shopping list each week, then get all the ingredients. Not to mention the actual cooking part. New recipes are fun to try, but I only have the creative-food-energy to do maybe one of them a week!
So for a long time we were eating good, home-cooked meals about 3 nights a week. And the rest of the time we were scrounging, making sandwiches, or eating out. It was a problem, both because it’s expensive not to have a meal plan and it was very unhealthy for us.
The Meal Plan
In a last ditch, desperate effort to create some kind of meal stability for our family, I decided to make one more meal plan. An insanely simple meal plan. And so far it’s actually worked for me! Maybe you’re the kind of creative cook who loves being in the kitchen and making new foods, and I am so happy for and jealous of you! But I am not that way. So here’s what I did instead.
Instead of making a new meal plan each week or a month long meal plan with lots of different meals, I made a one week meal plan. The same plan for every week. This is what our meal plan looks like:
- Monday: beans and cornbread, with a side of cucumber salad
- Tuesday: grilled chicken, baked or stir fried sweet potatoes, rice or corn, and salad
- Wednesday: taco salad with ground beef, avocado, corn, black beans, cheese, salsa, and sour cream (it’s really yummy and filling!)
- Thursday: spaghetti, garlic bread, a side of green beans, salad
- Friday: tuna casserole, creamed peas, spinach
- Saturday: pizza, with a side of salad
- Sunday: chicken broccoli stir fry, with rice
I love this new weekly menu and I don’t mind the repetition. These are all meals that my family (mostly husband) loves, they’re pretty healthy, and they’re inexpensive to make. I frequently switch up the sides with seasonal items or something fun, like fried squash in the fall. Or I’ll substitute one of the meals for a new soup recipe or lasagna.
Why It Works
Having just one weekly meal plan has worked awesomely for this non-cook so far! There a couple of reasons why.
- I know in my head what I’m going to be making for dinner each day, because the meal plan is so simple. Which is great, because then when mid-morning comes and I start to think about dinner and what meat to thaw, I already know. I don’t have to pull out a binder or try to remember. I just pull out the appropriate meat to thaw. When I pull out the meat, I start mentally planning to cook dinner which helps me actually do it.
- The grocery list is pretty simple and low-stress. Since I’m cooking the same exact meals every week, I already know what ingredients to get and how much we need because I’ve done it all just last week. I have it down to a science! It makes grocery shopping so much easier. (I don’t like grocery shopping.)
- I’m pretty good at all of the recipes, so it’s easy to put dinner on the table. I love that cooking the same thing every week gives me the chance to tweak and perfect each recipe, instead of doing a billion different meals poorly. (Which usually happens the first time I cook something.)
- It’s super easy to “mix things up” without being too time-consuming or stressful. I used to try to research a few new recipes a week for each new weekly meal plan. But it was hard for this non-cook. Making sure I had the special ingredients for each recipe, saving the ingredients for the right recipe (instead of eating it all early in the week because we forgot), then actually taking an extra hour or two in the afternoon to learn and cook a new recipe was way too much for me. But now it’s easy because all the other meals are on “autopilot” for me, and all I have to do is learn one new meal. I can do that. Just one new meal a week if I want to!
At long last, after at least three years of trying, I have managed to consistently put healthy, yummy dinners on the table! Ya’ll, it is such a relief not to stress about what groceries to buy or what to make for dinner anymore. It took a while, but I am so glad that I kept trying and that I’ve finally found a solution that works perfectly for us. Maybe if you’re a non-cook like me, it can work for you too!
I’m always curious to hear what other people do to solve this problem. So tell me, what kind of meal plan do you use? Are you the creative-chef-live-in-the-kitchen type? Or are you a non-cook like me?