When I first started meal planning, I hated it because I found it to be boring and too rigid for my picky tastes. What if I planned chicken for Tuesday night and then didn't want chicken? What if I had lasagna down for Friday night and was invited to go out?
I gave it a try anyways because I was tired of wasting food and struggling with the age old question of "What's for dinner?" I printed out a grid of the days and meals and started in. I planned everything out - right down to what snacks I was going to eat each day.
I was successful - for about a week. Then, I found myself losing interest because things were too predictable and I felt "boxed in" by the choices I made days in advance. This is where I started to play around with different ways of meal planning until I found a method that worked for me. I adjusted it once more after getting married to accommodate my husband who was strongly against meal planning. The result is a process that I like to call Flexible Meal Planning.
What is it?
Flexible Meal Planning is a method that allows you to plan what you're going to eat for the week without boxing yourself into a rigid calendar. The process takes into account your commitments for the week and works around them to produce a meal plan that offers nightly choices and answers to the question "what's for dinner?"
The biggest benefit of this meal plan method is that it's flexible and fits your needs. You'll have a meal for each night but you're not boxed into which night you enjoy them. The process will also save you time (no more hour long debate about dinner) and money (you'll know exactly what to buy at the store).
I'm going to break down the process into a few easy steps. After you read the steps, make sure you sign up to snag a free printable that can help you meal plan!
- Take out your social, work, etc calendars and write down everything you have going on for the week. Are there any events or commitments that will keep you from eating at home? Make a note of this.
- Determine how many nights you'll be at home for dinner. Use the commitments you wrote down as a guide.
- Use your recipe resources (memory, cookbook, Pinterest) to pick meals for the nights that you'll be eating at home. Going to be home 5 nights out of the week? Then, you'll need five dinner ideas. Do not assign them to a night!
- Add all of the ingredients and necessities to your grocery list for these meals.
- Keep your list of dinners on hand and each night, pick from the list to answer the question "what's for dinner?" If you have ingredients frozen, then you might have to pick your meals the night before.
- If something extra comes up, you can always roll meals over to the following week!
Do you meal plan? I'd love to hear about your process (or lack of process) in the comments below!
Want to have even more fun with your meal planning? Check out this ultimate list of themed dinner ideas!