Why Meal Planning Won’t Work For You
I’ve been thinking a lot about meal planning lately, mainly because it’s such a critical component to a smoothly running household. A couple weeks ago, I told you all about my new fast and easy meal planning method. I’m happy to report that although I’ve tweaked a couple things, it’s going well! Here’s a more detailed update about how it’s working for me.
I do have a confession to make, though. As much as I love planning and fully understand the importance of meal planning, I’ve been really on and off with it. I’ll get on a roll for a few months where I’m planning consistently, and then “life will happen” (whatever that means – LOL – I actually think when “life happens” is the time I need a good meal plan the most) and I’ll stop for a while. Then I’ll pick it back up again for a while and the cycle continues.
If you’re like me and haven’t managed to meal plan consistently long term (or at all), don’t give up! Instead, look at what derailed you in the past, and avoid those mistakes in the future.
Here’s some common meal planning mistakes to avoid.
- You bite off more than you can chew. When you sit down with your favorite beverage on a calm Sunday afternoon while the kids are peacefully napping, it might seem like a good idea to plan a few meals that require quite a bit of prep. However, on a busy Thursday evening while the kids are wide awake and needing you every 3 seconds, peeling and dicing 20 potatoes before you even get to the main dish is not such a good idea after all. You need to be very realistic when planning and take into account everything that’s going on.
- You incorporate too many recipes that you and your family don’t really love. This is especially easy to do if you’re focusing on eating more healthfully. It’s super tough to get excited about following your plan if you’re not really excited about the meals you’re preparing. It’s so important to find recipes that are both healthy and yummy. (And, yes, they do exist, but it might take some searching.) When you have a bland baked chicken and plain broccoli on the menu, chucking the menu plan in favor of take out pizza sounds much more appealing.
- You plan too much! Yes, it’s possible to plan too much food. This is something that has derailed me several times in the past. I plan to make a new dish each night, and we end up with way more leftovers than we can possibly eat. Or I make a full slow cooker full of soup, and we have to eat it for 5 days straight. If you have a big family, you might be laughing right now because this is never a problem for you. My solution to this is to plan a couple days for leftovers. I also freeze some leftovers when I put them away. For example. If I make a full slow cooker of chili, I’ll freeze half of it before I put it away. That way we have a reasonable amount to eat for leftovers, and I have an easy meal for another week. Often, I freeze in individual serving containers to use in case of emergency.
- You don’t have a backup plan and no flexibility. If things don’t go according to plan, you just have to throw in the towel. I always like to have a back up plan for days that are just crazy and I don’t have time to cook what I had planned. For us that’s either something frozen in individual servings in the refrigerator (so no long thawing process required to eat them) or scrambled eggs for dinner.
What about you? What trips you up when it comes to meal planning?
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I can’t cook without following a recipe (I’m just not intuitive to make good meals without a recipe). So I type my recipes into an Excel file so I can copy and paste the ingredients into my grocery list. I’m also famous for getting every ingredient except one main ingredient. So this helps me get everything I need.
I also plan 4-5 meals a week and don’t assign them to certain days. That way if my husband decides he doesn’t want chicken one night, we can choose something else on the menu. Or if we’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner (my favorite thing ever!) then we don’t waste time and food by thawing out something we might not get around to eating that week.
Meal Planning is such a big task and it’s all on me, so this is an ever-evolving task for me. I’ve done and re-done calendars and lists over the years as our needs have changed from only cooking for 2 people to cooking for a family. I’m always looking for ideas on how to be more efficient.
I plan for 4 or 5 supper meals. Our breakfasts and lunches are always the same 3 or 4 choices so when I run low I add those necessities to the list. I also don’t plan a specific meal for a specific day. I choose my meals and list them on the fridge then I list out all the ingredients for all recipes(only thing I don’t put down is water). Day before or shopping day I go through the pantry and fridge and cross off what I have on hand. Add any breakfast/lunch/snack items that we need and I have my grocery list already made. By doing it this way I’m on top of what’s in my pantry and fridge.
When I plan meals, I like to have a “new” recipe each week. It sounds great on paper, but when it’s not a favorite, that’s a big bummer. I like the challenge of new recipes, and there’s always that new one that is great and becomes a favorite, but when it’s not, I feel cheated out of time planning, cooking, and even cleaning up!
LauraJane SaysPost author
I understand the bummer when a new recipe isn’t good.
I consistently meal plan and have been doing it for a couple years and love it. I fill in my dinner meals weekly on my monthly calendar (so I can see what we have been eating all month) . My system seems to work for our family majority of the time.
The dinners vary based on the day and how much time I have to prep and get it ready for my family. I often use crock pot meals or simple sandwich meals on evening we have to bring the kids to events. I try once a week to cook something fun or new (usually more involved and time consuming).
I often have lots of meat in the freezer and only need to buy fresh produce each week and in the summer I grow a lot of my veggies. I also make freezer meals (lasagna, meatballs, chili) seasonally and have them in the freezer for easy to grab meals.
My husband is easy….he doesn’t care what I pick or make for dinner. He is so easy going….it boggles my mind most of the time.
I love to cook and try new recipes and I am always on the lookout for new ideas and tips to make everything run smoothly!