Every week, I share our meal plan for the following week. Sometimes I get asked whether we also stick to the plans exactly.
Many weeks, we’re shifting things around, either within that week or pushing things back to the following week. Why bother meal planning then? I’m not the kind of person who can come home, rummage around the shelves and then whip something together. I need to know what we’re having before I even walk through the door. And for some dishes, I like to have some elements completed in advance.
With all that in mind, here are 5 of my meal planning principles:
- Stick to recipes you know, for the most part: Sometimes I’ll inject a new recipe during the week but I try not to get carried away. It’s just less efficient to make dishes for the first time. When we cook on Saturdays, that’s when I’ll try to broaden my horizons and try out new recipes. Then I can introduce them into our weekly rotation.
- Think about lunches, too. I plan dinners around our lunch schedules, too, because often the leftovers are perfect lunch portions, at least for Vera and me. So it can sometimes be a lot of work to meal plan and meal prep, but getting more mileage out of some of them help.
- Use the slow cooker at least once per week. Because it just makes life way easier and there’s nothing quite like walking into the house after a full day and having dinner ready to eat.
- Know your substitutions. I realize that the point of planning is so you have everything you need on hand, but sometimes you may have to make adjustments (see #5 below) like swapping pasta for quinoa or something. Know what could work in different scenarios and which of your pantry and fridge staples can stand in for other things.
- Stay flexible. Planning is great, of course, but plans aren’t set in stone. Some weeks they get implemented as designed, other weeks they are more like a guide. It all depends. But staying flexible is ultimately the best meal planning advice I can give. Plan for sanity and preparedness, but stay flexible because real life often gets in the way.