My Secret to Meal Planning Success
Unsurprisingly, I am an avid meal planner. If I haven’t gotten the upcoming week’s menu more or less sketched out by Saturday evening, I start to feel like the wheels are coming off the bus. It’s sad but true. What I have learned over the years is that if I have a plan, even a brief outline of a plan, our family’s week goes much more smoothly and sanely.
One of the complaints about meal planning that I hear most often goes something like, “but I don’t want to cook something different every night.” Guess what? Neither do I! For me, meal planning doesn’t mean that I cook seven unique dinners every week, it just means that I have a plan for what we will eat. In fact, most weeks I cook about 4 or 5 meals and the other meals fall into place.
This past week, for example our meal plan looked like this:
- Sunday: Roast chicken and vegetables (leftovers were used for lunches all week)
- Monday: I was out at a meeting so the guys enjoyed hot dogs and salad
- Tuesday: Leftover pasta from Saturday night with fried eggs on top
- Wednesday: Greek Chopped Salad
- Thursday: Grilled cheese and salad
- Friday: My husband and I had an event and the boys had delivery pizza
- Saturday: Boys were out and I made a quick pasta with leftovers
So, as you see, I don’t let my family go hungry, I just don’t go all out. There are two fundamental components present in last week’s meal plan that I depend on heavily from week to week: sandwich night and leftovers night (although, to be honest, the leftovers night has recently been less frequent as both of my boys have both been eating us out of house and home!).
Why Sandwich Nights and Leftover Nights Are Key
There are a number of reasons that I consider sandwich nights and leftover nights to be lifesavers:
- they are quick to get on the table
- they are great for using up whatever we’ve got knocking around
- they are both really popular options in my house
- everyone gets to make their meal their own, which tends to lead to more enthusiastic eating, even though the effort put in was less—and who doesn’t love that?
A lot of times people will tell me that they feel like serving sandwiches is some sort of cop out. I disagree. First of all, sandwiches are delicious and can provide endless variations. Let’s take, for example, grilled cheese sandwiches. They can include different kinds of cheese (a great way to use up those little bits and pieces you know you’ve got knocking around the cheese drawer), spreads and sauces (pesto, marinara, etc.), vegetables (bell peppers, tomatoes, baby spinach, and leftover roasted vegetables are all favorites in our house), extra proteins (deli meat, leftover cooked meat or tofu), and different kinds of bread.
As for leftovers, if reheating and eating the same thing leaves you feeling kind of bummed, check out this post for ideas on how to easily repurpose them into different meals.
In short, meal plans should be about simplifying your life, not making it more difficult. They should be about helping you to have the space to enjoy your meals with your family. So this week, instead of feeling like you have to fill every day with a from-scratch meal, try to incorporate some leftovers or sandwiches into your plan!
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