4 Simple Ways to Plan Meals … What’s Best for Your Family?
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Does this sound familiar …
“What’s for dinner?”
“We’re having that again?”
Planning meals can be agonizing.
Sometimes I just feel like having everyone pour a bowl of cold cereal (heck, sometimes I DO have everyone pour a bowl of cold cereal).
There are a few solutions that I’ve found to help solve the age old dilemma. Finding the one that works best for your family is essential to successfully getting dinner on the table night after night, keeping everyone happy and tummies full.
Let’s look at the top 4 ways so you can decide what’s best for you.
1. Theme Nights
Theme nights can be very practical and still a lot of fun. You’ll have a general idea of what you are making and can still try new recipes.
The basic idea behind theme nights is having a set type of meal for each day of the week.
For example: Taco Tuesday’s or Pizza Night on Friday’s.
List out the days of the week and decide what type of food you want that day. Each week you plan a meal around the “theme”.
Here are several more examples of theme’s you try …
- Chinese ... (and many others of course)
Pick a Protein
- Chicken and mashed potatoes
Warm and Cozy
- Crock pot/slow cooker
Get the kids involved! Let them help at least once a week. They're more likely to eat it if they help make it! Plus it teaches good values.
- Mac 'n cheese
- Pizza (let them each create their own mini pizza)
- Salad Bar
- Baked Potato Bar
2. Calendar Method
Another popular method is to chart it out. This is great for families with picky eaters who like tried and true recipes with little variation.
Do a brainstorm session to think of your families favorites. Come up with as many as possible. Then chart them out on a calendar.
Make a weekly plan and rotate through your favorites. Or, if you come up with at least 30 ideas, you can create a single month calendar that you can reuse.
3. Interactive Meal Planning Board
This is the method that my family uses. I found a few ideas for meal planning boards on Pinterest then came up with my own hybrid version combining a few different ideas.
The main idea is to have all of your dinner ideas sorted on small cards. Then you can use magnets or pins to rotate through what you’d like to have.
Here are a few Pros and Cons of using a board like this ...
Con: It takes time to set it up.
Potential Con: Having somewhere to display it.
Pro: The benefit of a meal board is versatility. It’s easy to move meals around and have them on a better night if needed.
(Of course you can always do this with any method, but for me it’s a good reminder to see the plan in writing … I’m weird that way!)
Pro: I wanted to keep things as easy as possible so I actually color coded my meal cards and included the ingredients for that meal on the back of the card. I can pick meals based on what I have on hand and have an easy reference for ingredients that I may need to pick up at the store.
Not in the mood to make your own board?
Here are just a few meal planning charts you can get from Amazon. All of these are magnetic so you can hang them right on your refrigerator.
Fun feature: perforated shopping list
4. Meal Planning Service
Another strategy I love is having someone else do it for me!
My favorite online meal planning service is called The Dinner Daily.
There are several reasons I love this service …
- They base the meal plan around the store sales in my area. (Hello extra money savings!)
- I get 5 fresh, healthy dinner ideas (no hamburger helper type meals) with recipes every week.
- I can easily swap out a meal ideas if it's not right for my family.
- I can print out a handy shopping list with everything I need for the meal plan.
- And finally ... maybe my favorite feature ... there are links to matching coupons from the items on the shopping list. Click it and print them right from your computer. Talk about a couponing time saver!
You can check out The Dinner Daily here and get a free 14-day trial!
Related Article: My Top 4 Rules for Saving on Groceries (before cutting coupons)
Related Article: 7 Budget Killers You Must Avoid to Save Money on Groceries
Blending Meal Planning Methods
If not one method meets your needs, get a little crazy and mix it up a bit!
- Theme night once a week - think of something your family would never get sick of and make a variation of it once a week.
- Schedule your families favorites and rotate through them on a regular basis.
- Create (or purchase) an interactive menu board or printable calendar to keep track of your plan.
- Get extra help with ideas from a meal planning service like The Dinner Daily to plug any holes in your plan and try new recipes.
BONUS: Meal Planning for Picky Toddlers
As much as I try to prod, my little kids couldn’t be convinced to eat Coconut Chicken with mixed greens for dinner.
I still wanted them to eat healthy but I also wanted to be reasonable. For the most part they still ate what we ate, but I came up with a mix and match option where I had toddler friendly foods on hand. I could easily grab items from my “kid approved list.”
This works for all meals of the day and is very handy when you are short on time (can we say impatient toddlers who want to eat NOW!)
There is a list of mix and match foods for toddlers included in my Meal Planning Bundle!
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