What we're cooking for dinner seems to be a topic of conversation whenever I get together with my friends. We spend time swapping meal ideas, crockpot recipes and commiserating with the daily struggle of figuring out what to cook.
If you do a Google search or look on Pinterest there are tons of ideas and recipes out there to simplify meal planning. There are even really nice people who put together their entire menu, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, with links to the recipes to make meal planning easier. I've tried it all and still felt like it was just too much work.
|My try at a Pinterest Menu|
The first thing I did was look at the calendar and see if it was a dance day or a church day. These days mean dinner has to be cooked earlier. In order to make these days easier on me, we either eat pizza or left overs.
The next thing I did was assign each day of the week a different type of meat. Since most of my weeks look the same, I decided to implement a meal routine based around what meat I was going to cook that day. I started with the meat because I needed to take it out to defrost it first thing in the morning. If you look at the picture of my menu, you can see how I broke it down. Every week we have the same type of meat prepared a different way. My recipe board on Pinterest is organized by meats so I can easily locate a recipe for this day.
I did add some fun things on the menu. On Fridays we have breakfast for dinner. This is a family favorite and super easy to either go all out or just make pancakes. On Saturdays I have three question marks. I decided that the question marks symbolize, mystery meal. It's usually a surprise even to me what we'll be eating.
I don't plan ahead for the sides because I'm not sure what I'll be in the mood for that day. A side that is always on the menu is a salad or vegetables. I buy my vegetables frozen and then cook them for less than the recommended time on the bag. We like our vegetables crunchy. Some sides that I always have on hand to choose from are: rice and beans, macaroni n cheese, alfredo sauce and noodles or potatoes (mashed, baked or fried).
I have found this method of meal planning to work best for me. It gives me structure without putting me in a box. It also allows me to easily switch days if there is a change in our schedule. Having a plan is always easier to adjust then coming up with a plan from scratch at the last minute.
Other posts in this series:
Simplifying Meal Planning
Simplifying Your Calendar