Inside: Here you’ll the world’s easiest family meal plan to help you simplify meal planning.
Feeding a family can be exhausting. I recall standing in my kitchen about 10 months into this motherhood thing, realizing, “Oh my word. I’m going to have to feed this child forever. He and any subsequent children will need to eat… every single day.”
Me on the other hand, I can down coffee instead of a real breakfast. Skip lunch if I need to even. But children? They never stop needing food. Feeding a family isn’t a short-term gig. It’s a daily task that doesn’t care one bit about the kind of day you’ve had or when busy seasons arise.
While it’s an obvious reality, it’s one that never dawned on me before that very moment. With that, I realized just how much of my life was now going to be dedicated to food and its preparation.
Pre-Baby Grocery Shopping
Years ago, I used to love grocery shopping. I would stroll through the grocery store, trying to recall my favorite episodes of The Food Network’s, Everyday Italian, while impulsively purchasing ingredients on a whim.
Once my shopping was complete, I would then choose the longest checkout line… on purpose… so that I could spend time in the check-out line looking at food magazines. Ahhh, simpler times.
A New Reality
Fast forward through three kids and thirteen+ years of marriage, and like one giant smack across the face, I no longer live in that fantasy world. So many things have changed.
A long checkout line is no longer an opportunity to catch up on my reading. Instead, it’s become an opportunity to master my ninja skills by swiftly moving the grocery cart with my elbow so my 2-year-old can’t reach the candy while placing the eggs on the conveyer belt with my free arm. Meanwhile, I’m simultaneously using my foot to
kick gently coax my daughter out from under the cart, all while shooting eye darts at my son who is now using the lane chain as a swing. Grocery shopping with kids is a whole thing.
I even changed grocery stores to avoid those long lines. God bless Aldi and the record speed at which they move people through those checkout lines. It really is a work of art.
Time for a Plan
I spent years trying to crack this meal planning code and become one of those crazy, organized, crock pot wizards.
However, despite my impressive planning and list-making skills, I can officially say I’m a terrible meal planner and an even worse crock pot chef. I eventually gave my crock pot away as a white elephant gift after consistently burning every meal I attempted to make in it. Who messes up a crock pot meal?
A few months back, a lightbulb went off and I next level simplified our “meal plan.”
This is an almost embarrassingly easy meal plan that will provides a stress-free method for feeding your family.
Since then, I’ve exchanged my Julie and Julia expectations for a meal plan that works for me. Whether you’re just plain bad at meal planning or find yourself in the midst of a more frantic season of life, this just may be the meal plan for you too.
The Simplify Your Life Meal Plan:
(for those of us who are over it)
Stop Calling it a Meal Plan
Stop calling it a “meal plan” and refer to it from here on out as a meal rotation. Something about changing the name placed it a little more within reach for me.
Rather than designating a meal for each specific day of the week or month, you’re going to create a list of meals you’ll rotate through. The day, mood, or rapidly approaching expiration dates will dictate which meal I make that day. This gives us more freedom and removes that feeling of failure that can hit every time we veer from our “meal plan.” Which for me, was always pretty often.
Start by Making a List
First, make a list of all of your family’s favorite meals and side dishes.
For example, our favorite meals would be:
- Baked chicken legs
- Dry rub party wings
- Change Your Life Chicken (truly changed my life)
- Hashwi and pita bread
- Instant Pot chicken tacos
- Venison meatballs and spaghetti
- Turkey tacos
- Turkey burgers
- Perfect Roast Chicken by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa
- Brinner (Waffles/french toast)
- Homemade Pizza
- Chicken noodle soup
- Grilled adobo chicken
- Grilled herb pork or venison tenderloin
- Parmesan chicken
For the most part, everyone in my family will eat these meals without complaining.
Now, do the exact same thing with healthy side dishes.
- Green beans
- Sliced avocado
- Raw veggies (this is when I don’t make a side, I just pile everyone’s favorite raw veggies on their individual plates and call it a night.)
- Roasted veggies
- Homemade fries
- Mashed potatoes
Now Shorten the List
Choose three to four of the biggest winners from both lists to serve in a rotation.
As I write this, we are in the midst of rotating through tacos, grilled chicken, and turkey burgers.
Our sides include, sliced avocado, corn, homemade fries, and green beans.
*Now and then we’ll add in things like chips and salsa, garlic bread or salad. But I consider those to be optional sides occasionally served, but not required.
Here’s the part that may or may not sit well with you. I make those exact same three meals every…single…week.
Every single week, I make turkey burgers, spaghetti and turkey tacos.
By keeping a simple rotation like this, grocery shopping is a breeze, and I always have what I need in stock at home. It’s like a capsule wardrobe, but for your pantry.
This meal rotation makes my trips to the grocery store more efficient, my pantry more organized, and helps me feed my family healthy food while also saving money. Bam.
One Unique Meal a Week
Now, you may be thinking, that’s only three or four meals a week. What do you do the rest of the week?
I don’t want you to think about it in terms of “days of the week.” It’s a rotation, not a meal plan. Simply rotate through as needed. Our life, and my kids’ occasional growth spurts, determine how long each meal lasts.
With leftovers, this meal rotation can easily cover five evenings a week. After that, I can simply start over. Some weeks however, I’ll plan for one unique meal. Maybe I’ll make roasted chicken or get really crazy and make hashwi with homemade pita bread. But with this easy meal rotation, I don’t have to.
Revel in the Glory
Here’s the BEST part! Are you ready? When I announce that one unique meal telling my family we’re having baked chicken legs, homemade pizza or homemade mac and cheese, I become the family hero!
My kids love me, they hug me, they flail their arms and THANK ME for making something delicious, new and unique. (Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they are always excited for something new.)
I commend those rock stars out there who have mastered an extensive multi month meal plan, cooking something new every night. But while I tip my hat to them, I no longer aspire to be them. It’s just not for me.
I’ve found what works for us and it’s helped us thrive. Simple, sustainable, doable, small steps keep this family running smoothly, with greater peace, satisfied bellies and a sane mom.