I have been meal planning here at Crystal & Co., for over 110 weeks.
For real. And it is painless.
Each Monday you will find a new meal plan shared here on my site, including the recipes I plan to make for my family each week.
It is essential. Without a plan my children will not have a hot meal on the table come dinner time and we end up in the drive-thru lines which is costly and unhealthy.
In 2012, 3 Boys and a Dog and Crystal & Co., are partnering together to make feeding your family simple. We understand that moms struggle to get dinner on the table every day. Kelli and I are kicking off Simple Dinner Ideas today. Each month we are focusing on a different meal planning topic and providing you with resources and solutions (and giveaways!) to help make feeding your family simple.
Each month our series will have a sponsor. In January Rada Cutlery is helping make dinner a success. As the month goes on we will be introducing you to dinner solutions offered by Rada!
How do I set up my menu each week? I believe there are five steps that help me get dinner on the table.
How to Set Up Your Menu Plan
Develop a Recipe Criteria
This is key. Sit down and think about what makes a recipe a good fit for your family and what makes it a deal breaker.
For me, simple ingredient lists, easy preparation with little to no babysitting, and recipes that come together quickly are ideal for me. If a recipe can be made in the crockpot, that makes it even more appealing to me.
When I am searching for new recipes to make for my family, if it requires one hour of prep work, lots of stirring and babysitting, twenty-five ingredients and three hours in the oven, I immediately can say it will not work for my needs or my family’s needs.
Take a peak at my recipe criteria to see what makes a winning dinner idea at my house.
Use your recipe criteria and begin making a list of recipes that meet your criteria.
First start with the recipes you already know and make for your family. Then, begin searching online, in cookbooks, in magazines and at the library for more recipes that meet your lifestyle and needs. If you can come up with a list of twenty-one recipes this will give you three weeks of dinner ideas without repeating a meal once.
It really is that simple. Here is a list of websites that I regularly use to get recipes for dinner. And don’t forget, Crystal & Co., has a nice collection of easy recipes as well. As time goes on, you’ll be amazed at all of the recipes you collect.
Make Your Grocery List
Even though I have a recipe list that is beyond twenty-one recipes, I only meal plan for one week at a time and I only grocery shop for one week at a time. Why? Because it is less overwhelming for me. I do not have the space to store three weeks worth of groceries and I like to take one week at a time. You plan for as many weeks at a time as you want.
Each Sunday night or Monday morning I sit down and determine which 5-6 recipes I plan to make this week. I write them down. (I only do 5-6 because I realistically consider that we will eat out once each week and I also consider that we can have leftovers one night as well.)
Build your grocery list based on the meals on your menu and consider which ingredients you already have on hand. Meal planning is not going to work if you do not have all the ingredients you need when it comes time to make a recipe. Also, you do not want to waste money buying ingredients you already have in our pantry and freezer.
Here are some grocery list resources you might find helpful.
Display Your Menu
Once you know what you’re making this week for your family, display it. It can be as simple or as fun and crafty as you want.
Use a sheet of notebook paper and a magnet and post it on your fridge or make a crafty board that inspires you each week to want to meal plan. Here are some fun solutions for displaying your meal plan.
Put Your Meal Plan to Work
You’ve done all the steps and now it is time to make your meal plan work for you. I share tips and pointers to help you implement your meal plan.
Ask yourself, can I place meat in the fridge the night before to begin thawing, can you pre-assemble a casserole the night before, what about grilling up fifteen chicken breasts one night instead of just five or six so you have cooked chicken on hand for a future recipe. Here is how I put my meal plan to work each week.
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Your Turn to Share
Now tell me, how do you set up your menu each week? Have you previously shared a post about this on your site before? Have we inspired you to write your steps down to make meal planning easier? Kelli and I encourage you to link up any posts that you have sharing how to meal plan. You can also follow more pointer throughout the month on Twitter by searching the hashtag #dinnerideas! Play along with us.