We’ve all seen that famous clip floating around Facebook haven’t we? (If you haven’t, it’s pretty hilarious. Google it ASAP.) It’s a clip from The Notebook and is titled, “When you ask a girl what she wants to eat.” It shows a young Noah and Ally fighting. Noah frustratingly asks Ally, “WHAT do you want?!” She shouts back, “It’s not that simple!”
Oh boy—my husband and I laughed so hard. It is ooooooh so true for me. I am constantly changing my mind about what I want to eat or where we should go out to dinner. Choosing an ice cream flavor could take hours. Food indecisiveness is a first world problem that can ruin your marriage. OK maybe just your night…but seriously. Can you relate?
So this begs the question, “What does The Notebook have to do with meal planning?” Well honestly, not much. But as Ally said before, when it comes to asking a girl what she wants to eat, “It’s not that simple.”
I had heard that meal planning would save me money, time, etc., and I tried sticking to it…but when Wednesday night rolled around and I was supposed to make pasta, I felt like Tacos. And Thursday night, when black bean burgers were on the schedule, all I wanted was a nice big salad.
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My meal plans ended up in the garbage and I ended up rummaging through the pantry and fridge, rushing to the grocery store a million times a week (OK let’s be real here…my husband was the one running to the grocery store). I was about to concede that meal planning just wasn’t for me. Then I made one tiny change that made meal planning easy and doable for me!
Here’s the secret: don’t schedule a meal for each night.
Rather than assigning a meal to every single night, I simply plan ten meals and grocery shop accordingly. Then each morning (or an hour before dinner….which is usually the case) I gaze upon my list of meals and choose whatever the heck I feel like! It is FREEDOM. Since I went grocery shopping for all ten of my meal plan dinners I already have the ingredients and can make whatever dinner I desire. Voila!
If you’re new to meal planning and want some tips on how to get started or if you just want to make meal planning easier, I’ll share my method and tips for the easiest meal planning of all time!
STEP ONE: THE MASTER LIST
This is so important. You have to do this step. Yes, it does take a bit of time to create a master list but here’s the thing: it’s a one-time gig. You do “step one” ONCE. ONE TIME. Then you never have to worry about it ever again and let me promise you: this is the thing that will save you so much time in the long run.
Here’s what you do: take a paper and write down all of your favorite meals. Go through your cookbooks, your Pinterest, call your mom, whatever you do—just get as many of your favorite meals down that you can think of. Once you have a list of all your favorite meals, stick the papers in plastic sheet protectors and place them in a 3-ring-binder.
Every now and again, you can update your list by adding a few new meal ideas. I update my list every couple of weeks. This has grown into a pretty deliciously long list of meal ideas.
STEP TWO: WRITE YOUR “MEAL PLAN”
Ready for it? Writing your meal plan is actually the easiest part. Pull out your 3-ring binder and choose ten meals from your master list. Write them down on a piece of paper and stick it on your fridge. Boom. That’s your “meal plan.” I told you it was easy!
Ten meals are the magic number for my family because that lasts us about two weeks (taking into account leftovers and going out to dinner every week or two). If you hate leftovers or don’t go out, you may want to choose more than ten meals. Figure out what works for you and your family, and go for it!
STEP THREE: MAKE YOUR GROCERY LIST
Go through your meal plan and compile a grocery list. Make sure you have all the ingredients to make your ten meals. I also add my typical breakfast and lunch items to my grocery list, as well as a few snacks. Then I only buy the items on my list. It ends up saving us mucho dinero and lots of calories, since this way I don’t end up buying all the tempting goodies at the grocery store.
STEP FOUR: GROCERY SHOPPING
If you need instructions on step four, you have bigger problems.
STEP FIVE: DINNER TIME
It’s time. Take a gander at your list and pick whatever the heck you feel like making or eating. You already have all the ingredients. Enjoy!
This “meal plan” is more like “meal choosing”. Once the master list is compiled, it’s just a matter of choosing ten things that sound yummy and making your grocery list.
This takes me about ten minutes every two weeks! Can it get any better and easier than that? Save time. Save money. Save yourself the hassle and stress of not knowing what you can make for dinner! Make a meal plan!
So you see Ally, it really is that simple.
What are YOUR tips that have made meal planning successful for you?!?!