I have a busy family. Two teen boys that are always starving, one teen daughter that is super picky, two full grown men with appetites to match, and one busy mom trying to keep it all together. I don’t meal plan for breakfast or lunch. For breakfast, I just keep stocked with cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, and snacks I know my family likes. Lunch is always leftovers. After school snacks for the teens are easy to prepare box pasta, rice, and more cereal.
Dinner requires a bit more time to plan…..
If my husband had his way, we would eat “grilled steak three times a week, followed by grilled salmon and sausages for the remaining days”.
If my daughter had her way, we would eat nothing but pasta and cheese.
If my boys had their way, we would eat enough food to feed a small African country for a month, every week.
If my brother-in-law had his way, we would eat out every night.
I just want to be able to make dinner in an hour so I’m not spending my entire weekday evening in the kitchen.
Spending just a bit of time before I go grocery shopping really does save me time, stress, and confusion when it comes to what is for dinner every day. Once you have your lists made, the rest comes easy!
The first thing you need is a list of meals that your family likes to eat. I want everyone to be involved in this part so that I know I’m not forgetting someone’s favorite. I asked each member of my family for their top five favorite meals and their favorite dessert.
L – steak, steak, steak, steak, fish. Favorite dessert: cheesecake
J – enchiladas, chicken and dumplings, taco soup, chicken fried steak, fried chicken. Favorite dessert: carrot cake
C – chicken alfredo, burritos, country fried steak, mac n cheese, french dips. Favorite dessert: lemon bars
K – willapa whoppers, steak, steak, steak, green enchiladas. Favorite dessert: cookies (any kind)
E – burritos, hamburgers, potato boats, spaghetti, steak. Favorite dessert: apple crisp
H – potato soup, roast with vegetables, brats and sauerkraut, pancakes and eggs, kung pao chicken. Favorite dessert: cheesecake
At the end of this list, I added a few meals that I know are well received when I make them and a few that I know are super easy to put together for those busy nights. This gives me enough meals for three two-week lists. I go grocery shopping every two weeks. I am able to rotate through my lists so that we aren’t eating the same thing all the time.
Once I have my meals broken down into two week lists, I start making the grocery lists to match. I list every ingredient that is needed to make those meals. This will be my master list for that set.
It does take a bit of time to put the meal lists and grocery lists together. Once they are done, I use the same lists for about a year. At the beginning of the new year, I poll my family again and get some new lists.
When it is time to go grocery shopping, I grab my meal plan for that two weeks and check the kitchen to see what I need. I make my shopping list based on that. My menu plan may say that I need 2 cans of enchilada sauce to prepare all of the meals. If I already have 1 can in the cupboard, I’ll only put 1 can on my shopping list. I do try to make a dessert once a week, so I’ll check my baking cupboard to see if we are low on anything. Once I have my meal plan ingredients on the list, I check our stock of breakfast and snack items to add onto the shopping list. Then I move to looking at household supplies like laundry soap and toilet paper.
When I go shopping, if there is a good deal or I have a coupon for an ingredient I know we use a lot, I’ll stock up at that time. Otherwise, I stick pretty close to my list.
Come back next weekend to see how I work this meal plan into my weekly planner so that I always know what is for dinner before I go to work in the morning!