By Melissa Miller
“What are we having for dinner?” One of the kids asks. Their well-meaning question feels like an accusation.
You look at the clock and realize it’s 4:51pm … and the first time all day you’ve thought about dinner. The day flew by, it’s a little late for a grocery store trip, and they are a little too young to cook for themselves. You hand them a banana, because bananas are the answer for everything. This gives you time to stare inside your fridge and think about what kind of dish you could make using eggs, pepperoncinis, cucumber, and a half cup of cheddar cheese.
Ever been there? Or is it just me …
If you are like me, the hardest part of the whole mealtime process is planning the grocery list. I tried out apps where you can select the meals for the week and it tells you the grocery list - brilliant! The only problem was my kids weren’t a fan of the recipes.
It took me a bit to come up with my own meal plan, but in the long run it’s saved me a ton of time. I listed out all of the recipes and meals I know my whole family enjoys. I started out with about 4 weeks worth of meal ideas (Some of our favorites dishes repeat), and built it over time as we tried new recipes. Then I created a grocery list for each corresponding week and linked each meal to the recipe (unless I know it by heart). I excluded items I know I always have on hand, like olive oil. I just glance at my list, pick which “week” we are in the mood for and use the corresponding grocery list. Since it’s always in my phone, I can stop off at the grocery store at any time and grab what I need for a weeks worth of meals.
Here is a sample of a cozy winter week:
Week 5 Groceries
White Jasmine Rice
Bag of Carrots
13.5 can coconut milk
½ lb red or yellow lentils
2 cans diced tomatoes
Sun dried tomato pesto
5 cups veg stock
1 can red kidney beans
1 can northern beans
Ditalini (tubular) pasta
1 cup frozen green beans
I can black beans
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup corn (frozen or canned)
32 oz ricotta cheese
2 packages frozen spinach
2 jars marinara
9 oz package no boil lasagna noodles
Shredded mozz. 16 oz
Fettuccine or spaghetti noodles
Grated parmesan cheese
Although I’ve shared my meal plan with a few people, every family is different with their preferences. The overall structure can work for anyone, but you are the only expert on what your family likes and dislikes. There are plenty of days or weeks where I fly by the seat of my pants with meals, but this system seems to be what I always come back to save my mommy brain power.
If you decide you want to give it a shot here’s the step-by-step:
1. Make a list of all the recipes and meals your family enjoys.
2. If you only come up with a small list, it’s okay. Start browsing online for meals you can tell would be a good fit for how you like to cook, and your family’s preferences and try them out.
3. Give yourself some easy meals each week (mine are tostadas), don’t make all the recipes in one week hard.
4. Try to find overlaps (for example, dishes that all use chicken can go in the same week).
5. Start to compile a grocery list per each week you came up with.
6. Store your lists in the cloud or somewhere you can easily access it on your phone.
7. Link the meals with recipes so you never have to go digging around for the how-to.
8. Place the grocery list under the meal list, but if your overall list starts to get too long, turn the grocery list into a link too.
9. One thing I’d like to tweak is instead of naming them week 1 or week 2, is to give them a theme that sums up the meals. For the example above, I would name it “Cozy Winter” so that I would know it’s not a week I want to select during the hot summer months.
If you decide this meal plan is totally not for you, trust me, I get it. What works for one mom doesn’t work for another. However, if you pass up the meal plan idea, at least don’t pass up that minestrone soup recipe above. I add a little ground beef sometimes, it’s delish and will make your house smell like Little Italy.
Melissa Miller is married to her best friend and has three children. She serves alongside her husband at Canvas Church in San Diego, CA. Melissa works for a marriage ministry, and is passionate about helping marriages and families thrive. Melissa and her husband are in the process of adopting internationally. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and beach days with her family. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!