Meal planning is essential to my week running smoothly. I've been meal planning for years, but recently I started feeling overwhelmed by it all. Which is the exact opposite reason I meal plan! Feeling even more overwhelmed at 5pm, while two children repeatedly say, "I'm hungry. What's for dinner? Is it time for dinner yet? I forgot, what's for dinner?" is no bueno. That's how you end up ordering pizza two times a week.
All my meal planning in the past has required quite a bit of creativity, time, and energy. Every week, I'd be searching through cookbooks and Pinterest recipes, planning out all the meals and writing down all the ingredients, and then shopping for all of that, list in tow-including the actual meal plan to make sure I didn't forget anything. And while I love cooking and meals at home with my family, and enjoy grocery shopping, and get real satisfaction out of meal planning it was turning into something that was complicated and...hard.
So I decided to reassess. To simplify. (That is basically my life motto right now: More simplicity. In all the things.) Inspired by this blog post, I decided to assign a meal to each week night. I've always thought that I needed to change things up or everyone-including me-would be bored, but turns out everyone likes these meals best anyway, and are happy to eat them. Plus, I do change them up, but only in the most simplest of ways.
Here's my weekly minimalist meal plan:
Monday: pasta, salad, veggie
Change ups: marinara + ground beef OR meatballs OR Italian sausage, pesto + chicken, Alfredo. We usually have some sort of squash as the veggie to keep it Whole 30ish for me and the hubs (spaghetti or zucchini are favorites) plus the pasta for the kids.
Tuesday: stir fry, rice
Change ups: chicken, pork, or steak plus any veggies. I do either Asian seasoning or fajita. Same process, totally different flavors.
Wednesday: burgers, fries, salad
Change ups: turkey burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, BLTs. I sometimes switch out the salad for raw carrots, celery, and radishes. We have both lettuce wrapped and buns.
Thursday: soup or salad
Fave Soups: split pea, chicken and rice stew, tomato, beef stew, chicken enchilada
Fave Salads: chicken Cesar, taco, salmon BLT
Friday: leftovers or out
Saturday: Slow Cooker
A variety of things, but my default is pot roast or buffalo chicken
Sunday: Sunday Supper
We take turns picking out "fancy" meal each week.
Sunday supper is always a big meal for us, I usually plan it out from cook books and it takes a bit longer to cook, and we all work together. I also take this time to give the kids basic cooking lessons. I love Sunday Suppers and I can truly enjoy the work that goes into them now that the rest of the week has been simplified.
So, how can you start minimalist meal planning? Think about the foods and meals your family love and actually eat, and things that are simple to prepare. Take into account evenings that you know will be busier and make those the simplest to prepare meals. Go from there, and the rest will all fall into place.
This is hands down one of the best changes I've made this year. Making a minimalist meal plan has made a big difference in my kitchen. Knowing exactly what I'm going to make AND that it will take minimal time, not to mention that I know everyone will eat it without complaining (PRAISE HANDS) takes the stress out of the equation. It also has helped me to enjoy cooking even more, and to try new flavors and more complicated recipes on the weekends and it leaves me less stressed to enjoy our weekday evenings together. And the best part of all? Teaching my children that home cooked meals and eating together doesn't have to be hard or stressful.