Do not meal plan on an empty stomach
For awhile I was doing really well at meal planning, even planning 3 months out, that is 90 days of different meals because I felt bad repeating them to close together. Then softball season hit, then I got my short term job with the Census, and then life kept happening. So meal planning went out the window.
While I was in Florida I decided it was time to hop on that old bike again. Not only does it relieve stress and anxiety(for me) but it also helps me stay on a budget when I am not going to the store buying anything that looks yummy. I also can keep an eye out for things on sale that I may need in later weeks.
So I set up an excel spreadsheet and added all the extras, practices, games, dance class, and anything else on our family schedule. February is a smart month to start because we aren't so overwhelmed by softball games, and dance recitals, its a short month but an easy month as well.
I wrote out everything on a notebook then transferred it to the spreadsheet. I had 28 days to plan for and although I could find 28 recipes I decided to give myself 1 leftover day a week and at the end of the month Brianna has a tournament so those are "On your own" days for everyone home.
I use the same 4-6 main proteins for us, Chicken, Pork, Beef, Turkey, and Fish. I split the days up between the top 3 and then added in 2 turkey dishes. For the most part all my recipes come from ideas on Pinterest, I tend to adjust and remake dishes per what we like. I also have a HUGE binder full of recipes and a bunch of (could use more) cookbooks that I go through and research to make my plan.
This plan will let me keep an eye out for items on sale that I will need at a later date, if meat goes on sale I buy and freeze, spices go on sale I buy and store, the only thing I have to really worry about is fresh veggies but luckily we also enjoy frozen veggies so that can be a cost cutter too. I can also obviously adjust as needed also. Dan is on freight now which means he can tend to be gone working for a couple days at a time, it also mean he needs to have food for the amount of time he is gone as well. Which means my pork dish may have to wait so I can make a chili or something that can be spread out more.
I do try not to repeat dishes within a month, I have gotten more lenient on myself as far as repeating but I at least try to not repeat within 30 days. I do also have a thing for varying cuisines like one month I may lean more towards Asian, or Mexican, or Indian. We do enjoy trying new things and learning what we like and don't like.
I do not make separate dishes for the kids, I do tend to take extra steps so they will eat such as cooking some of the protein longer because Chloe likes hers well done, or keeping some protein of to the side when possible because Brianna doesn't like sauces. The babies are usually fine with anything, they have yet to decide to be picky about anything.
So in a nutshell I have 28 days of my life planned out, not every second and I know change is inevitable but for 28 days I can sleep a little easier (a goal of mine) because I have something planned, something figured out, and I feel great about that. I feel accomplished and ready to do March-December!
Do you meal plan, do you want to learn more about how I meal plan? I can add and share my different outlets that I use the most. Or feel free to share with me what you find the easiest!