Easy Meal Planner
I don’t know about you, but summers around here tend to be a free for all. All my organization, scheduling, meal planning, bedtimes…it all pretty much goes out the window. It’s nice for a while. But when school starts and cooler temperatures come, I also look forward to getting back into a routine. And then the holidays come and it’s all out the window again. But my family still wants to eat. Enter the easiest meal planning you’ll ever do.
Meal planning has always been an area where I struggle, for lots of reasons. Kevin has feeding issues, Brian is a terribly picky eater (ARFID), as is my husband. At times I feel like a short-order cook in a diner. This weekend, I am definitely getting my sh*t together. I have to start meal planning again, for my own sanity. I have to have a plan or it really stresses me out.
Customizable Meal Planner
I need my meal planner to be customizable. I’ve tried the ready-made meal planners and they just don’t work for me. I have to change up too many things. It is much easier for me to just use the blank ones. I made up a bunch of these and I just change them out by season. My summer ones have lots of salads and grilling. Winter meal plans have more crockpot and soup ideas.
When I’m focused, I can do a weekly meal plan and order it on ShopRite Shop at Home in less than an hour. Seriously!
Easy Meal Planning
Despite my best efforts, meal planning falls on me. I get it, I work from home. My husband works long hours and 90 minutes away. So it makes sense. But some days I’m ready to scream.
What has helped us is that I am open and honest about how I’m feeling about meals. And, what I’m cooking.
Now, I just make up several of these, a week at a time. If I’m flipping through a magazine or cookbook, I put the idea right on the planner. It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, then I just take that meal planner sheet and shop from it. Easy peasy.
Looking for a monthly meal planner template? Just make up four of these, and voila, done. I now have about 5 or 6 weekly meal plans for the colder months and about 3-4 for warmer months.
Meal Planning Tips
- Be realistic. Some nights we eat hot dogs, and that’s ok. Be realistic about what you eat and plan for it. You can always improve as you go.
- I make several of these weekly meal templates, and then I rotate them. Right now I have about 15 of them, and I just choose one and do my shopping from it.
- Go easy on yourselves, moms. Not every night is Beef Wellington. Grilled cheese and tomato soup are fine. Better to have a plan of something simple and nutritious than nothing at all.
- When you see great ideas on Pinterest or in a magazine, don’t just pin it and forget it. Write it down on your next meal plan!
- See if there is a grocer near you who delivers. I find that I spend much less money on delivered groceries because I stick to my list and no impulse purchases. It’s also a huge time saver and sanity saver. I can sit down one evening and shop and meal plan in less than an hour.
- Tell everyone in the family they get to choose one meal each week/month. Takes the stress off you for thinking of ideas.
- Don’t try to do everything at once. And by that, I mean, meal planning, eating healthier, save money….start small. Start with meal planning and getting back on a grocery budget. Improve from there.
Free Meal Planner
I also have some of these tablet-type meal planners, which are fantastic for when my printer is out of ink. Which is often!
Best Meal Planning Idea Ever
I cannot believe I never thought of this. My friend posted this on Facebook. (shout out to Laura!) When I saw it, my head exploded. Why have I never thought of this? But she posted that this is what her family of 5 is doing during the quarantine.
It’s so simple…I don’t know why it never dawned on me to do this.
Are you ready?
Two meals a day.
I am having a family meeting at breakfast today and announcing our new schedule. We are going to two meals a day. One will be somewhere around 9-11 am, and the second one at 3-4 pm. There are so many benefits to this, I can’t even begin to list them all. But I’ll try.
Reasons to go to two meals per day.
- Less work for whoever has to do meal prep and cleanup.
- Allows you to try intermittent fasting, which even Harvard says has some benefits.
- We get to eat more cooked breakfast meals like pancakes and eggs, which I don’t make often enough.
- Allows for more meaningful family time in the evenings, since meals are completed at an earlier hour.
- Snacking won’t be as much of a detriment to overall daily calorie counts.
- For many families, it’s easier to gather the family together twice a day instead of 3x a day.
- If you eat a healthy snack earlier in the evening, you’re much less likely to eat a late-night snack, which are very detrimental to a person’s health.
- Slow cooking meals like roasts and crockpot meals can be started at the same time you are preparing the first meal of the day. Again, less time in the kitchen for the preparer.
- Lunches tend to be the least healthy meal of the day. It’s when we’re much more likely to eat fast food or other unhealthy items (like prepackaged crap we send in with our kids’ lunches). This eliminates that opportunity.
- It eliminates the problem that many families have when it comes to youth sports. Do we eat dinner at 4 or at 9 pm?
- Normally I only try brunch recipes around a holiday. Now I can try more of them.
Ok, I get it. Sure, it works for now. But at some point, our kids will go back to school. But, remember this. Most school years are only 180 days. That means that we still have the opportunity to do this more than half the time.
But I’m hungry when I first wake up!
Hey, I get it. Sometimes I am too. Though my usual routine is to have my coffee the first hour, then eat. But if you’re hungry first thing in the morning, eat. Just eat small, and don’t eat something high in sugar. Americans have a terrible habit of eating dessert items that are disguised as breakfast item early in the morning. This wreaks havoc on your blood sugar.
Some ideas to grab first thing in the morning:
- high protein yogurt
- cottage cheese
- hard boiled egg
- chick peas (dried)
- trail mix that is high in protein, low in sugar
- protein/granola bars that are low in sugar
- drinks/smoothies that are high in protein, low in sugar
- peanut butter on a low-sugar something, like low carb slice of bread or half a bagel
- consider trying to feel full on water
Eating a pile of sugar first thing in the morning, which a large percentage of Americans do, is horrible for our overall health. While it might feel odd to eat hummus or edamame first thing in the morning, you get used to it. In fact, America is one of the few countries in the world that has a high-sugar breakfast, and this has come to be solely because of marketing. Many countries (with overall better health and life-expectancy) eat things like rice and beans for breakfast.
Put simply: Learn to like savory more than you like sugar.
I hope this makes your life easier!