How to make meal planning easy
I've been in a meal planning rut lately. While I've been able to come up with some interesting meals here and there, and (of course) the family has been fed, it's all felt very unexciting. The blank piece of paper on which I plan our meals feels daunting. Then I remembered a friend telling me about how every Monday is pasta night for them, and has been since she was small, and I felt like I at least had a strategy to help push through this rut. The meal plan would take the next step up to meal schedule.
Turn your meal plan into a meal scheduleI remember my mother talking about how, when she was growing up, she knew what day it was by what was served for dinner. My grandmother had a small regular repertoire and would make the same things over and over and over again. While it sure would make the weekly grocery list creation super easy, I don't think I could go quite that far with meal scheduling. Heck, my mother didn't continue that approach, either. But you can make meal planning or a meal schedule easy and interesting, as to not eat the same few meals over and over again.
Assigning meals to specific daysIn thinking about how to structure a meal schedule, I first tried to group the kinds of meals we've been eating lately. Pasta, chicken, pork, beef, kid-friendly (pizza, for example), soups, roasts.
Then I assigned that meal type to a day:
Wednesday: Leftovers for kids, pasta for parents
Creating variety with meal planningFrom here, I was able to narrow our choices and come to a decision more easily. The vast array of choices was less daunting, because I'd just narrowed the array. The pressure was eased, if only a little.
For example, instead of wondering what we eat at all, I focused my Monday efforts on pasta and quickly realized we hadn't had that pasta dish with sausage and spinach in quite some time, so why not fix that? And so on.
Very quickly, the general meal schedule eased back into a weekly meal plan that looked like this:
Monday: Pasta with sausage and spinach
Tuesday: Chicken picatta with Mediterranean couscous
Wednesday: Leftovers for the kids, pasta with Brussels sprouts and pine nuts for the parents
Thursday: Mediterranean minestrone soup, salad
Saturday: Marinated pork chops, rice, broccoli, salad
Sunday: balsamic roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables, salad
While this doesn't completely solve my meal planning rut, it does help lessen it, at least in the short-term. Maybe something like this could work for you, too.