Meal Planning in Under 30 Minutes

My mom cooked dinner every night. Every. Night.

Sure there were leftovers but those were re-purposed into another meal on night two or even three (my Mom knew all about stretching a buck). Back in the day, dining out was for special occasions and there wasn’t takeout except for pizza or Chinese food. So Moms or Dads cooked.

Nowadays we have waaay more options to feed our family, but we still have to figure out what to cook, reheat, order, or where to go every night. And if you have littles (small kids) at home, you’re adding in breakfasts and lunches to boot. You know, like we all did back in the early days of Covid when we were ALL home. However, I digress.

I think I read somewhere that people have 5, maybe 7 meals that are in constant rotation in any household. I think I used to only have 4, which was why one of my children said to a friend’s mom on a playdate, “My Mom likes chicken”.

So if you find yourself in a cooking rut or your DoorDash driver knows you by name, there are two magic words. Meal planning.

Don’t panic. I only meal plan for dinners. I eat pretty much the same thing every day (savory oats for breakfast, soup, or a huge salad for lunch) and it’s a “choose your own adventure” for lunch and breakfast in my house for the family. But dinners…that’s like, every night. Besides, as you’ll see, you only have to cook 2, maybe three meals.

Ok, let’s go. You’ll need a pen, paper, a recipe book, and your family calendar. Or if you’re under the age of 45, open up notes, pop into your favorite IG posts or TikTok and make sure your Google calendar is synced with the fam.

  • On your paper, write the days of the week. Identify the days that you typically go out to eat, or know you’ll be ordering in. For example, I rarely make dinner on Saturdays and one day a week my daughter comes to spend the night and we order in.
  • Grab your recipes and select ONE to make in the coming week. Just ONE.
  • Now fill out the rest of the week with some of your normal meals.

Here’s how mine usually looks. Notice I only list the main menu item and there is a vegan and omni version. Since I’m the only exclusive plant-based eater in the house I will offer both to my family. (On a side note, how to cook for differing family preferences is one of the main questions I get asked and I will address this in a future post. )

  • Now that you have your menu planned, turn the paper over and make your grocery list. Having the menu handy at the store makes sure you don’t forget an item like the black beans for chili. Also, be sure to think about doubling recipes so you can make extra servings for lunches (or if a hungry horde of teens descends on your home after swim practice).
  • Finally, if you have the bandwidth, pick a day where you can devote an hour or so to make a large salad, get beans soaking or start a pot of soup for weekly lunches. Trust me, this is how you ensure that when you’re getting ready for work, or if dinner plans change, you have something you can quickly heat up.

Even the best-laid plans don’t go as, well, planned. So be flexible and keep tinkering to find out what works best for you and your family.

Now go run!

Keli 🙂

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