Growing up I remember our weekly trips to the grocery store every Sunday after church. I never paid much attention to my mother’s process in meal prep but she has always been a planner. As I got older I noticed her consulting a binder full of recipes while making her weekly grocery list. To me thats just how it was done- pick your meals for the week and make one trip to the grocery store. So that is how I did it myself even during college. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized not everyone plans their meals and grocery lists this way.
A few years agoI was talking to co-workers one day and mentioned my weekly grocery trip and they all acted baffled that I planned my meals ahead of time and only went to the grocery store once a week. They said they usually stopped at the store at least a couple times a week, sometimes every night on their way home from work or else they got take-out. They thought planning a week of meals seemed overwhelming, time consuming and stressful. To me this just seemed like the best use of time, one trip to the grocery store to get everything needed for the week and meals planned in advance- simple!
For the past couple months I have been sharing my weekly meal plans in my Instagram stories. I often get questions about how I choose the meals, how strictly I stick to the weekly plan, and how I stay motivated to cooking most nights. So today I’m sharing a few tips and insight as to how I plan our meals each week.
Before deciding which meals to make I first like to take a quick look in our fridge to see what we already have that could be used up. Things like fruit, veggies, fresh herbs, eggs, etc. Based on what we have I try to come up with a meal or two to use up what we have so that nothing goes to waste.
Look at the Weekly Schedule
I like to take note of any specific plans during the week that may interfere with cooking or what we have a certain night. This could be Andrew having an over night shift, a late afternoon activity or evening plans (rare during COVID).
Keep Things Simple
With a busy toddler running around I try to keep our meals fairly simple. I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen so I try to choose meals that won’t take too much prep work. I also try to choose one meal a week that I know will be enough to have two nights in a row. I’m really not a fan of leftovers but when you are feeding two people (2.5 I suppose with Jack) its had to make meals that are enough for just one night. This usually gives me at least one night free from cooking.
Choose a Goal & Be Flexible
I try to have at least 5 dinners planned a week (including the night of leftovers, so 4 cooked meals). When planning my meals I do try to designate certain meals to specific days, especially keeping our weekly schedule in mind, but I try to be flexible and allow meals to be moved around depending on what sounds good each day. I also try to keep a few things on hand for other simple meals should we need an extra meal or have plans change. This usually includes things like pasta, a box of mac-n-cheese or fixings for sandwiches or a simple salad along with the occasional frozen pizza or lasagna if we are in a pinch.
Make Your List
Once you have made your list of meals go through your fridge again to write down everything you need from the grocery store. Also take note of any pantry staples you may need along with items to help with breakfast and lunch for the week.
Once you’ve planned your meals and gathered your groceries it comes down to motivation. I will admit that even having meals planned and all the things I need to cook there are still days that I don’t stick to the meal plan or don’t feel like cooking. Meal planning will save you time by reducing trips to the grocery store and cutting back on the endless questions of what to eat that night, but you still have to put in effort each day.
If part of your struggle getting dinner on the table is that you struggle to find the time or energy to prep your meals I would suggest finding a day each week that you can prep as much as possible in terms of cutting up veggies, measuring out ingredients, etc. Also, don’t feel like you need to have a gourmet meal on the table each night. If simple is what works best for you then stick with it!
Below I’m sharing my weekly menu doc (to download as a PDF click here). I fill it out each Saturday in preparation for the week ahead. Taking time to write out our menu each week helps me stick to it. I hope it will be helpful for you too. If you have any questions to help you with your own meal planning goals feel free to comment below. For weekly meal inspiration follow along on Instagram and keep an eye out for more weekly menu ideas here on the blog!