I know meal planning can be daunting for some, "where do I find recipes?", "how do I know what to make on what day?", "this seems overwhelming!", "'*flips table* l'll just wing it!", trust me, been there and flipped that.
Meal planning can be a task that you dread each week or month, or it can be something you look forward to! I am happy to say I am now in the club who loves to meal plan and I think these ideas might bring you to the planning side! Through trial and error, I have come up with my own style of meal planning which I choose to do weekly. However, there are so many different ways to meal plan and everyone should find a way that works for them and their lifestyle!
These meal planning strategies are all about how to organize and make the process simpler and more enjoyable. Now let's talk about these three ways you can make meal planning fun, easy and way less time consuming!
MEAL PLAN BY CUISINE
The first style of meal planning I want to talk about is planning by cuisine! Okay Lauren, what the heck is that?!
This meal planning strategy revolves around a set cuisine for each day of the week. This works perfectly for weekly or monthly planners, which is one reason why it's so great!
Growing up my family always had pizza on Fridays, like always. Delivery, frozen, homemade (okay, it was the Chef Boyardee boxed Pizza Maker, not important), but we always had pizza and it was something we could count on and didn't have to plan! This style takes it one step further and sets a cuisine for each day of the week!
For example, Monday could be your Mexican or Tex-Mex night, Tuesday is Italian, Wednesday is Chinese, you get the idea! So you would make yourself a key to reference each week or month and when you sit down to plan you know exactly what type of recipes to start searching for!
Here are some more categories to choose from:
-American (hello, burger night!)
And don't be afraid to repeat your favorite cuisines! I know I would do Mexican and Italian night more than once a week in my house! Don't forget to leave a spot or two for leftovers night, if that's your jam!
MEAL PLAN BY METHOD
The next meal plan strategy is the same strategy of choosing a day of the week to be something specific, for this style its all about the method!
In my house Monday's are my craziest days (isn't that everyone or...?)! I have a lot due for work on Mondays, it's the first day back in the swing of waking up early-ish and running around trying to only be 5 minutes late to work. I like easy on Mondays, easy is good. So for this method I would probably make Monday a simple method with minimal cleanup, like a sheet pan or one-pot meal!
Each day you will choose a different cooking method and the best part is you can pick when to cook the easier meals! Are you home late on Thursday? Great, make it a crock pot meal and throw in a roast! As they say,... boom, DONE! Are you off on Fridays and have more time to cook? Perfect, lets try that new recipe that has a few more steps!
This method really varies based on what kitchen appliances you have and actually like to use. If you don't have an air-fryer or you despise cleaning it after a long day at work, don't schedule an air-fryer night... simple, I know! So now all you have to do is organize your method based on your weekly schedule & your cooking style!
Here are some more ideas you can schedule throughout the week:
-Sheet pan meals (oven baked & roasted!)
-One pot meals
-Microwave (I'm kidding... kind of...)
Again, don't be scared to repeat your favorite methods more than once in a week! I love a good sheet pan meal, they're fast, easy and have minimal cleanup (ideal, am i right?!). Scheduling a leftovers night and maybe an eat-out, take-out or date night is also a great idea. Give yourself a break from that kitchen, girl!
MEAL PLAN BY DISH
The final meal planning strategy I want to mention is meal planning by dish or protein! This might be the easiest of the three options and it's a great way to keep your meal plan versatile and not cook chicken 5 times a week (maybe that's just me...?).
I know I am the type that knows what I like and gets comfortable using the same proteins over and over. Chicken and ground turkey are almost all I buy these days but I am trying to branch out more and find new things I love. This style is definitely the answer for me and maybe you if you are stuck in the poultry rut as well!
Here are some categories you can plan around:
-Meatless (Maybe Meatless Monday? I love a good alliteration!)
You can even throw in some categories like salad night, soup night, etc! Give some thought on what you like to cook and some things you want to try. This meal planning strategy doesn't only make it easier but its a great way to try new recipes and experiment in your own kitchen!
So there it is, 3 easy ways to meal plan for you or your family! Remember all of these are great for weekly or monthly planning! To help you get started, I made some free planning printable's where you can choose a strategy and give it a go!
Let me know what strategy you like best or if there's another style you love!
HERE IS THE WEEKLY CATEGORY PLANNER!
HERE IS THE MONTHLY CATEGORY PLANNER!
BUT WAIT...HOW DO I FIND RECIPES?!
Personally, I am a Pinterest girl all the way! I browse and re-pin recipes throughout the week and when I go to meal plan I pull up my Food Board and see if any of those recipes will work for me that week. If you know you are looking for a crock pot meal or a chicken meal, etc. you just type that into the search bar! Simple, fast and every recipe has a photo- my favorite, lol!
I am also a huge fan of a recipe binder (literally a 3 ring binder filled with printed recipes!). This binder houses all of the recipes I love or want to try. If I try it and don't care for it, I throw the recipe away. If I change something, I can easily make notes right there on the printed recipe to remind myself the next time I make it! One tip is to keep your recipes in sheet protectors so they hold up forever!
I could make an entire blog post about how I find recipes, more fun strategies to utilize when planning, and how to build an amazing recipe binder! If that is something that would be useful to you please let me know, I'd love to share! Happy planning!