Do you like to read food blogs? I find myself getting lost in Pinterest when I search and peruse the food section. And I usually find myself looking at recipes when I am hungry--that is just as bad as grocery shopping when you are hungry! I really wish I was a better cook. I wish I enjoyed it. There was a brief season where I began to enjoy cooking (9 years ago). Then, we discovered all of my husband's food allergies & intolerances and cooking became difficult. It felt like a chore. The food was boring. And it wasn't long until we added kids into the mix. My enjoyment declined further. It seems like these kids always need to eat! ;-) There is nothing worse than realizing it's almost dinner time and you don't know what to cook. That is especially daunting for the one who doesn't like to cook. Not to mention that it is absolute war time during the cooking zone when you have kids. It's like they have secretly been watching you all these years and realize that you are weakest at 5:00pm. So they attack. I digress...
I have found many recipes that I like and have tried successfully. I keep them on my "made it" board. Our dinners tend to always be gluten free and dairy free. They are usually sugar free and often grain free. They are usually boring simple. I have always wanted to be able to follow a meal plan that someone has made but it seemed like most didn't fit our needs (gluten free, dairy free). I have finally found a system that works for us. You'll have to forgive me for this pitiful picture.
I have a serious love for graph paper. Something about writing in tiny boxes makes me happy. So this is what I do. I make a chart with the days of the week down the side and the meals across the top. I write in pencil so that I can easily erase it if something changes. I don't really plan breakfast other than list different options we will have on hand. Both of my girls take lunches to school with the exception of pizza day and/or grilled cheese day for Sinclair. I really wish I was the kind of person who made lunches the night before, but alas I am not. I am more of a morning person and the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is fix another meal (again, they always need to eat!). But I have found that if I simply list out what I plan to fix for lunch on then when the morning comes, I can crank out their lunches in 5 minutes. And while we are on the subject of lunches for kids, I am all about presentation. If it is looks cute/good then they usually eat it. So I take an extra 30 seconds and cut their sandwiches into shapes. Nothing fancy but some little details. For my lunch, I always eat the same thing. My options are usually homemade chicken salad, apple with almond butter, eggs or leftovers. Then, to plan for dinners, I look over my "made it" board and my other boards here, here, here and here. I think about what we like to eat and what I want us to try to eat. I am a firm believer on recycling meals ideas every couple of weeks. I look at our calendar and see what we have going on each day. Tuesdays we have dance so I know its easiest to have a crockpot meal, leftovers or eat out where kids eat free. On Wednesdays, I travel for work which means its easier for leftovers or breakfast for dinner. There are a couple of people that I always tend to try their recipes. Erin over here always has great ideas. And another is this site. I would love to attempt once a month cooking. She definitely has different kinds of meal plans to fit your dietary needs.
After I have figured out what we are going to eat, I list out our grocery needs below the plan. Being the organize junkie that I am, I color coded it. Yellow is produce. Blue is meat. Pink is dairy/eggs. Green is frozen. Orange is pantry. A red box is household items/non grocery items. This helps me to breeze through the grocery store. I usually make a weekly run to Trader Joe's and Target. Then, I hit up one other grocery store later in the week. I simply cross out the items once they are purchased. We usually eat out once or twice a week. Again, I really don't like to cook so I always enjoy when we get to eat out.
So that's it. Nothing fancy. It has simplified things for us. What about you? How do you plan your meals?