Let me tell you about something that actually changed my life, (obviously not in the same monumental way that things like Jesus, marriage and “growing up” have changed my life). More akin to the way that many women in your life emphatically tell you how the diva cup has changed their life – we all have that friend, maybe you are that friend. #preach
It’s still been a real change, so I’m going to tell you the details. Let me start by explaining how it works and then I’ll dive into why it’s so awesome.
Note: This is what works for my life, my schedule, my particularities, and obviously not all families or people need such a rigid structure – but I kind of love structure!
How it works:
I usually sit down on a Sunday afternoon with our big family fridge calendar, Pinterest open on my laptop or phone, cookbooks open and strewn about, and a pretty rifle paper market notepad and pen, combined with some mild opinions from my husband. Depending on the season and how busy we are determines how many weeks I will plan for at once. I think the sweet spot is two weeks of suppers, one week doesn’t seem worth it (although sometimes we do this if we’re going away) and three weeks can get tricky with produce freshness. If we do three weeks we will supplement with a quick run to the grocery store around the corner for milk and produce.
So for the next two(ish) weeks I’ll look at what we have planned in the evenings and weekends, as we both work mostly* full time and mostly* daytime hours. I’ll watch out for evenings where one of us has to be somewhere and try and plan meals that come together quicker on those evenings, or if Stefan has volleyball I’ll try and plan a meal that is especially filling and then try and eat it earlier in the evening. I usually plan a slightly fancier or more labor-intensive meal for a Friday night, and I don’t plan meals for weekends as we’re usually out with friends/family or we’ll eat leftovers. Don’t forget to plan around family dinners, parties, special nights out or whatever else is on your social calendars!
I try and get input from my husband for meal suggestions, because he’s learned that if he doesn’t pipe up with ideas I’ll end up making soup every night for two weeks. #truth
As I search for meals and plot them on the calendar, I’ll write out a grocery list. This is the perfect opportunity to arrange for some new recipes and also fill in some tried-and-true meals that we know we absolutely love! Of course I add staples to the list like milk, cheese, yogurt, bread and fruit that aren’t specifically in the dinner recipes, but are regular things we eat for breakfast and lunch.
After this, I pass off the list to Stefan and he orders our groceries online and they’re usually delivered the next day at whatever time we choose.
Here’s why it’s awesome:
You save money!
This is HUGE! We have way less food waste. I used to go to the grocery store and buy almost every vegetable – naively thinking I would cook everything before it went bad. Not true, we threw out so much food that we just couldn’t cook and prepare in time. Additionally, if we have a meal planned we are far less likely to go out for dinner. We plan our date nights ahead of time (so sexy) and really look forward to them if we actually see them on the calendar! Also, most meals we cook have leftovers and then we are able to take them for lunch the next day (win).
Additionally you control how thrifty/extravagant, healthy/comforting and simple/complicated your meals are. You can easily plan more cost-effective meals and spend less money on groceries if that’s your jam.
This way of meal planning is completely modifiable and flexible, you plan exactly what you want. Another perk is that you can sort of stretch out the time between meal-planning and grocery shopping if you have unexpected events/suppers that come up. It’s easy to just move a meal forward to the next week or whatever if something changes in your schedule. I honestly just draw an arrow ahead on the calendar.
Another option would be to just write out a bunch of meal ideas for the next weeks, buy all the groceries and then choose what you want to make each night.
You gain peace of mind!
I know I’m a bit of a planner, but I absolutely LOVE that we know what we’re having for supper. Before we switched to this method, we would text each other at work asking what the other wanted – neither of us really excited about anything as our minds were elsewhere (duh at work). Then we’d both get home grumpy and hungry, and dig through the cupboards to find something to make. Plus these “cupboard meals” often have no veggies in them, and I kind of need to eat vegetables. If a cupboard meal isn’t an option we’d probably have to run to the store or maybe even go out to eat. Whatever your budget is, I don’t think it’s very healthy, sustainable, or wise stewardship to eat out every night! If you plan what you’re making for supper, then you don’t have to stress about it on the day of. See? Peace of mind. Plus no more fights that include “I don’t care, what do you want to eat?”
We have a little rule in our home: whoever is home first from work begins making supper. My husband is very good at cooking, if he knows what to cook. This was very frustrating for me before, as I didn’t like coming home from work (me being hungry/grumpy) with supper not even started! It just works so much better now.
How amazing is it to come home from work when your partner has started cooking supper? Apparently my primary love language is food (and carcasses if you read the bone broth post). I also love cooking and preparing food for my family and I feel like I’m serving and loving them in a very practical way. I totally understand if this is not your thing. Cooking can be super intimidating. I struggled with finding recipes that were worth it for the amount of work required and cost of groceries. I just wanted healthy, quickish, cheapish, tasty meals. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?? This is part of the reason I created this food blog, I wanted to share meals that I’ve found to be worth the effort, and meals that are fresh and that have interesting textures and bright notes, meals that are simple and healthy.
How do you meal plan for your family? Do you buy a little of everything and cook on the fly? Do you make meal lists? Do you make meal plans? Do you eat little pills that have all your calories and nutritional requirements accounted for? Please say “no” to that last one.
photography by Kaitlyn Gibson