Sometimes meal planning can be such a hassle. I used to wonder where to start. What would I be in the mood for? What would it cost this time? What do I already have that I can use? Should I try something new or just do something I’m familiar with? Easy or elaborate? Then I started a system that has made meal planning much less time consuming and more predictable–enabling me to use less brain power on it! Here’s one way you can make meal planning less of a headache.
Create A Cycle Menu
I created a cycle menu. I don’t mean that I make the same 5, 7, or 10 meals on repeat, but I use a pattern to make what’s for dinner less of a mystery for myself and everyone else! I even came up with a few clever names for each day of the week to help me remember the plan ahead of time.
My Cycle Menu
Meatless Mondays: I always want to make sure we have at least one meal that isn’t centered around a meat every week. (Typically I try to cook more veggies than meat anyways). This could be anything from a salad to a veggie one-pot concoction, as long as there’s no meat.
Stuedays: I pride myself for coming up with this one. Tuesdays are the days I cook either a soup or stew. Since Tuesday is my laundry day (and I’m usually not in the mood to cook much after laundry) it makes it easy to throw something in the pot at the end of the day or even start something in the morning in the crock pot.
Wildcard Wednesdays: I love getting recipes from Pinterest and trying other new things, so I dedicated Wednesdays to trying anything and everything that tickles my fancy.
Slow Cooker Thursdays: Thursdays are my errand days when I go to the grocery store, the library, the bank, anywhere else I need to go, so I’m always sacked out once I get home and unload the groceries and put them all away. I used to put it all away and then get dinner started, but it was such a bore to have to do food all day from store to dinner table. Now, I throw something in the crock pot before I head out for the day and once the groceries are unloaded, dinner is ready and waiting.
Family Fridays: I always wanted to have a family night where everyone has a pizza crust and gets to build their own pizza and pick their own toppings, so I made room for that in my plan. However, I can’t imagine eating pizza EVERY week, so I decided to alternate pizza and pasta every other week. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to enjoy this family tradition I’m starting.
Saturday Outings: After cooking during the week days, I am ready to take a break and get out of the house, so I’ve dedicated Saturdays to go out and enjoy local restaurants and give myself a reward for feeding my family well.
OYO Sundays: “On Your Own” is an acronym I created that translates into everyone eating either leftovers from earlier in the week or finding something else to snack on. Sometimes all I need is a bowl of cereal to fill me up on a lazy Sunday evening.
Fill In The Gaps On Your Grocery List
In addition to dinners, I typically buy sandwich building blocks for lunches in case there aren’t any leftovers one day, breakfast foods, and what I need to bake something each Monday for us to snack on through the week. This week it is a box of brownies I happen to have stowed in the closet from a buy one get one free sale months ago. Boxed brownie mix?! Trust me, this is totally an exception to the rule.
So that’s it! When I sit down on Wednesdays to meal plan, I pull out my trusty cycle and simply plug a few recipes into their appropriate slots and dinner is planned for the week. Of course, there are always exceptions–probably one every week–but this serves as a valuable template to keep me sane and organized.