Making Meal Planning Work For You

Every Sunday night I sit down with a tea and plan our supper menu for the week. I then put it on our giant antique thrifted chalkboard in our kitchen. If you follow me at all on social media, you know I post our menu every Monday (or Wednesday if the week has got away from me) for you all to see.

We don’t always have fancy creamed lobster on Tuesday but it’s end of season (landing day ) here in Sou west Nova so we feast!

As a working, frugal mother of four,I have always meal planned. It has always helped me be intentional with our homegrown food, reduce food waste, and helped us save money on the groceries we do have to buy. It also is a very important part of my family’s day. I never dread the question “what’s for supper?”. They know where they will find me.

I am the main one responsible for my family’s meals. There is usually one in every family. I enjoy it, and find cooking relaxing. Not everyone does, so getting to a spot where you don’t resent your family for eating is going to be a big first hurdle. All the meal planning in the world won’t help you if underneath it all is resentment .

I completely understand there are so many barriers to meal planning. Everyone has something they struggle with,  so I asked “What stops you from meal planning?” on social media and here were some of the answers:

“Not enough self discipline”, 

“I’m lazy”, 

“I forget” ,

“I can’t stick to a schedule”, 

“I get off track and give up”, 

“My ADHD won’t let me .”

“Everyone eats something different.”

“Everyone eats at a different time.”

“Lack of ideas.”

“Shift work”

It’s no wonder some people pay for a service to ship their supper thousands of miles .

My favorite way to use up leftover ham. A ham is cooked on Sunday and will stay good in the fridge for 7 days allowing for loads of meal ideas.

Now what I realized from asking this question is two things:

1) women ( only women answered and my demographic is 87% women ) are entirely too hard on themselves,

 2) people think meal planning has to look a certain way and it’s not going to work for their family if it doesn’t look that way. 

And maybe that’s a tiny bit my fault. I DO post a pretty little menu every week. And lord knows the Pinterest boards are full. Women have never in generations before had to contend with this many available recipes, and this much information about what their meals should look like. 

My goal of posting my menu is not for you to compare and feel you or your meal planning falls short. I would never ever do that to you, my friends. I want you to maybe see a meal you’d like to try, or a meal you have forgotten about you may like again. Or maybe you want to stretch a dollar and I have something posted you can use. I KNOW meal planning is hard because I do it every week.

So in that vein, below are my top barrier busting tips for meal planning and I really hope you find something in here to help you push through so you all enjoy meal time. Food tastes so much better when we aren’t stressed. 

  1. Start on Sunday and make it a habit. Make it part of your self care for the week. Just close your eyes and picture how much easier things are going to be if you have even a few meals you can choose from.
  2. Start with your protein. I go to the freezers and look at what I have (so maybe not everyone has five freezers though, but look at what you have or what’s on sale and start there) I will pick out steak, Ground pork, haddock, and some chicken thighs. I take everything out of the freezers Sunday night and put it in the fridge to thaw for the week. Then I make my meal plan from there. This is important. You will at least have food ready to cook in the fridge.
  3. Get rid of the misconception that it has to look a certain way. If your family is really active, pick a roast chicken to make Sunday for supper eat the leftover for two days in quesadillas and soup, steak to cook quickly cut into cubes with onion and steak seasoning and served with home fries and frozen peas. Leftovers go into a steak burrito with rice and peppers. Chicken thighs get braised and go in the slow cooker one day with honey garlic sauce. Served with rice or pasta. Haddock is quickly breaded and pan fried, served sweet potato. One day is leftovers, one day it’s taco meat and everyone grabs one when they can. One week done.
  4. It’s still good if you can cook a home cooked meal, regardless of what it is and what time everyone eats. It’s better if you have a home cooked meal from scratch and everyone is home. It’s best if everyone eats a home cooked meal together at the same time. You decide how often that’s possible for your family, and that’s your bar to hit every week. Not what season everyone else is in. It’s what season your family is in.
  5. KISS-Keep it Simple, Sweetie.Why are you trying to make 3 things you’ve never made before when you are just starting a habit of meal planning regularly?? There is nothing wrong with a protein source, a vegetable and salad/ pasta /rice/potato for supper. Or a soup and sandwich. Or a simple casserole. It is not a sign of failure. Build these simple meals into your plan until you have established a regular meal plan and found out what works for your family 80% of the time.
  6. Give yourself a lot of grace. When your meal plan doesn’t go as planned, picture your best friend going through the same thing. What would you say to her/him? Would you say “ Well Sue, you should just stop planning meals, because this is not working for your family.” I’m not sure that’s going to fly and I know you wouldn’t say it to your best friend. You’d be encouraging and give grace when there is a hiccup. And there are always hiccups. Hello…you are meal planning for real people not robots !
  7. Put it somewhere where everyone can see it. If you are running late. Delegate someone to start dinner. From the age of 9, I looked after my baby sister after school and peeled potatoes for supper. We need to not be the only people responsible for meals. We need to help raise capable kids who can make suppers too. But they have to know what’s for supper first.
  8. Choose just one main meal to meal plan for a week. If you have big lunches, choose those. Nothing causes a beginning meal planner to fail like trying to plan three meals a day for a month.
  9. If someone doesn’t like something on the menu, they can have whatever leftovers are in the fridge but I do not make seperate meals. The end.
  10. Let the family pick at least two meals on the menu. It doesn’t all have to be up to you. There is a lot less complaining when they have chosen it themselves and it makes up for the nights when they don’t really love what we are having. Not every night will get a 5 star review but hearty, nutrient dense meals always hit the mark for health.
  11. Don’t make things you don’t like to make. There is no cross for you to be nailed to. Bitterly complaining about making a supper you do not like to make is just silly.

Sometimes we do need to do hard things. Meal planning is hard. Some weeks are a gong show, and I’m constantly switching around suppers. That’s OKAY. There is no menu planning police coming for me, or for you for that matter. But there also isn’t an awards committee either. You have to be okay with choosing to do this for your self care, your budget, and the health of your family. 

Your ribbon is in the mail.

Love Jenn xx

Eating in season means fresh spring greens from the cold frame .
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