Growing up, I didn't know how to make a meal plan. My family never followed one and therefore I never really saw a need for one. When my mother would go grocery shopping, it was a once a month affair in which she would walk into a store and start picking things off the shelves ticking off common ingredients use in our household meals. If a list was brought, it would mostly be abandoned half-way through or never double checked at the end to see if something was missed. Of course, this is an easy way to supply a house with food if you're not one for cooking from scratch or really knowing ahead of time what will be for dinner. The majority of my mom's basket now-a-days consists of hamburger helper and "helper" meals alike. There are many reasons why my mom doesn't cook ranging from "no motivation", too many picky eaters, and "forgetting". With a meal plan and no kids to deny a meal, these excuses do not fit in with my new home.
When I left my mom's house behind I developed my own system when planning meals became commonplace. I'm not one that enjoys walking into the kitchen two hours before dinner, to stare into the fridge and think... "What can I make???". Especially since that way of thinking often leads to last minute rushing to the grocery store for that one item that doesn't seem to be in the pantry and because of the last minute trip, dinner ends up on the table way later than it should be. I did not enjoy eating meals at 8 or 9 pm regularly and decided it was time for me to break tradition.
I now plan out my meals 1-2 weeks in advance and do weekly shopping trips. Not only does this save me from having to do the last minute trips but also it saves money as I don't end up buying "common ingredients" that I don't end up using after all. My mother's pantry is always filled with canned foods that she buys on her trips but never seems to have the things she actually needs to cook.
I used to print out a monthly calendar that would hang on the fridge that used to not only list our meal plan but also what appointments, meetings, etc. that we had. I have recently switched over to a planner that can be carried in my purse so I can fill it out when not home. The problem that I have noticed with using this tactic is the lack of seeing while in the kitchen what will be made for dinner that night or the following night. It seemed like such a pain to hunt down my planner every time I needed to check what meat to thaw out.
So this is what I did:
Cut scrapbook paper to the size of the frame (I used an 8x10), and on the scrapbook paper write the days of the week. Using a dry-erase marker you can then fill in dinner for every day. Of course versions of these are sold in the stores, but with the materials at hand I would much rather make it for free! Using twine, string, etc., firmly attach to the hook at the back of the frame and choose a sturdy magnet to hang with. Of course you can also hang on the wall or attach magnets directly to the frame, but I have no wall space and no magnets.
Some may know about a current trend going round right now including cooking meals or prepping meals in bulk and then freezing to limit the required cooking throughout the week. I am slowly incorporating some of this into my cooking as I test out which recipes freeze well compared to others. On the menu you see, the lasagna, chicken pot pie, and the enchiladas are all freezer foods. Since it is just my husband and I, it makes it easy to just double a recipe and sort out serving sizes for quick dinners later in the week. Incorporating extra servings into your nightly ritual of cooking might be just the thing to do if you have a busy schedule so you can manage to save some time later in the week.