Looking for a fresh strategy for meal planning? One that is super-detailed down to the smallest ingredient? That plans out elaborate lunches and dinners for 31 days at a whack? Meals that your whole family will love?
Sorry, you’re not gonna find any of that here.
However, if you are looking for a simple, sustainable, half-planned/half-spontaneous strategy for feeding the mouths in your family while also preserving your sanity and offering flexibility, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this post.
But first, the backstory: I like cooking. Really like cooking. Well, I did until I found myself having to prepare 3+ meals a day for 6+ people. That’s 18+ plates a day folks. That’s about the time I started reconsidering my convictions surrounding healthy, wholesome, home cooked meals.
I’ve gone through seasons of cooking multi-ingredient, labor-intensive meals and really enjoyed it. Some of those recipes have stood the test of time and I can now make them in my sleep. Hurray! I’ve also concocted impressively detailed shopping lists in the past and really enjoyed it. There can be something so satisfying about crossing items off of a well-crafted list! But alas, that season has passed and I have bid it adieu with gratitude. Life just currently feels a little too full to add on detailed meal plans and shopping lists and multi-ingredient dinners that require more than 20 minutes of my time. And that’s ok.
So for the past 5 months, I’ve been implementing what I lovingly call the Good’nuff Meal Plan. Basically, this consists of 4 categories: Protein, Produce, Prep, and Purchase. It’s as simple as that. I list all sources of PROTEIN and PRODUCE currently in my fridge and cross them off as I use them. I add a tic mark for every pound of meat in the fridge/freezer (ex. I currently have 6 lbs of ground beef, or I I I I I I). This helps form the backbone of our meals while also ensuring our food doesn’t spoil before I get to it. I also list items I’d like to PREP this month as I am able; cravings, comfort food, Pinterest-inspired plates. But only if it feels enjoyable to me. No obligatory cooking here. No trying to impress people. Just trying to feed my family healthy meals with minimal stress. Lastly, I keep a list of items I need to PURCHASE next time I’m at the store. Which isn’t very often anymore thanks to Walmart grocery pickup (more on that below!)
How’s that for unpretentious? I don’t even have a picture-worthy white board! Granted, this strategy assumes you already have some skills in the kitchen and don’t need to follow recipes (or that you’re creative enough to simply work with what you’ve got.) But overall, this has been a fun and freeing food adventure. And I’ve even discovered some unexpected tricks and benefits along the way:
- I spend far less time thinking through meals. Protein. Produce. Done.
- Recipe searching (i.e.surfing Pinterest) has turned into an enjoyable perusing of meals I would LIKE to try vs. meals I MUST execute
- Shopping has become more enjoyable as I’m able to browse aisles rather than engage in a stressful hide-and-seek with the items on my shopping list
- I don’t try to please all of my kids at mealtime. Instead, I’ll supplement a less-than-desirable dinner with healthy smoothies (frozen fruits, yogurt, protein butter/powder and my homemade kefir milk) and noodles loaded with grass-fed butter.
- Walmart grocery pick up. Heavenly! Place your order online, schedule a pick up time, drive to Walmart, pop trunk. In fact, if you try it out using this link, you’ll get $10 off: http://r.wmt.co/eYQiz I’ve been impressed with their variety of organic goods, and you can even buy things like batteries, lightbulbs, and paper goods.
I hope this post offers a breath of fresh air to your meal planning. And if something is working for you, please share!