With the new year has come a goal for healthier eating, right now I’m focusing on getting more fruits and vegetables into our diets. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ll not great at side dishes, never have been. I can barely get a main dish on the table, how am I suppose to also get two or three smaller dishes also on that table!???
Obviously this is a perfect place to put those vegetables and fruits we should be consuming! But again after I’ve struggled to get that main dish on the table it’s past time to think of coming up with a veggie for the side. That’s why I’m going back to my old way of meal planning: instead of only planning for a week, I will plan for the whole month which will include at least one fruit or veggie side dish.
One thing I love about meal planning this way is I can see what my family is eating as a whole. We want to give our family a variety of foods right!? This way I can make sure we don’t have chicken 4 days in a row and the same frozen veggies as a side. I know it sounds daunting, how can I think of a whole month’s worth of dinner when I can’t even think of what to eat tonight! I have some hacks that will allow you to write out a month’s worth of meals with ease!
- Give each day of the week a category. Monday: crock pot meal, Tuesday: Salad, Wednesday: breakfast foods, Thursday: meatless, Friday: date night/kid’s choice, Saturday: staples, and Sunday: Mom and Dad’s favorites. Think of which days are your busiest and put something fast there, and save those time consuming dishes for a day when you have more time. Maybe you only want to eat meat on certain days, coordinate those here. This will help to narrow your thought process; you only need 4 different meals per category, or even 2 if you love the meals and want to repeat them. Having tacos twice in a month doesn’t seem unreasonable to me!
- Have at least one day a week be a planned lazy day, something you don’t have to really think about and can have quickly. In the past we always had pizza for dinner on Friday, and a frozen meal on Monday. This go around it’s our Friday nights, Jacob and I will grab something for the two of us to eat and we’ll feed the kids something they love but don’t usually have for dinner, usually that’s cereal. So on my calendar every Friday says Date Night/Cereal. Easy and a no brainier when meal planning.
- Along these lines have a few easy and quick meals on hand for the days that don’t always go as planned and you just need something fast and easy! This might be frozen pizzas, frozen chicken strips and fries, spaghetti sauce and noodles, burritos… We all know some days just don’t go as planned, but you won’t have to stress about dinner if you have a few quick meals in your pantry or freezer to quickly whip up.
- Keep the previous month or two calendar to look at for inspiration. You might have a new recipe you want to try or planned parties that will change things around but realistically you could copy the same meals right over and be just fine. Again if your family has enchiladas once a month, that’s not too frequently in my book.
- And lastly, plan which side of vegetables or fruits for each meal. You can make sure you are getting a variety and when shopping for that week’s meals you can be sure to buy whatever you need!
Once my month is filled out I hang it on the fridge where I can have quick access to it. I still shop once a week, but making my list is easy as I just look at what meals are coming up and write down the ingredients I might need.
In years past I just printed out a blank calendar that I filled in the dates and then the meals, but this year I wanted something better. I made a calendar template that’s just a bit prettier and makes me happy when I look at it. You can download it here for free. Print it out and get your meals organized! But don’t worry if this type of meal planning is not for you, use it to get any other part of your life organized!