I promised you guys an update on my meal-planning post from a few weeks ago. Here it is! I hope you aren’t disappointed that I don’t have this new grand plan with printables and tools and websites and “seven weekly staples” and all that jazz. After trying a few different methods, I realized that S I M P L I C I T Y was what I needed most. Surprise, surprise.
The one major tool I did try out was the Plan To Eat meal planner. I liked it. It’s a great tool for those of you who are hardcore recipe savers and planners. (Although it does cost a monthly fee and I just did the trial.) My favorite feature was how it formatted the recipes for easy kitchen use. But it ended up being one more site to click into to check on dinner, and I found myself flip flopping back and forth between my meal-planning calendar and my Google calendar way too much. I need flexibility and simplicity most of all.
I thought doing a theme day might be my best solution, but even that wasn’t flexible enough. We are always planning around events, dates, leftovers, parties.
I thought creating elaborate pinterest boards of “recipes to try” and “favorite recipes” would be a good solution, but as it turns out, keeping it simple ended up being the direction I went. Pinterest overwhelms me, and like Plan To Eat, it would have added another step.
So as it turns out, just a few tiny tweaks to my current work flow system was all I needed.
1 // The Meal Plan Is Done By Friday
My biggest hangup was trying to do the meal plan on the same day as we went to the grocery store (usually Sunday morning.) So my new rule is the meal plan and grocery list must be done by Friday the week before. This is perhaps the biggest game changer. And it was such a simple change. I just have to stay on top of it!
2 // Making My Meal Plan In TeuxDeux
I LOVE TeuxDeux and use it for my weekly task scheduling. At the bottom of your weekly calendar, you can make “anytime” lists, so I now have a “Meal Plan” list. By putting the meal plan into something I check 10x a day and keep open in my computer browser, I see it often and am reminded of what’s coming next. The reason Plan To Eat, Google Calendar, etc. hadn’t worked for me in the past was that I didn’t check them enough. I didn’t want to have to go to a new website each time I wanted to be reminded of what’s for dinner. So if you need simplicity like me, whatever you use for your daily task list is probably the best list for meal planning too. (There is one big drawback to this and that is that Thomas can’t see our meal plan, but for now this problem is minor.)
What I also found to be a challenge using a meal planning software is that a lot of times I just needed to write in something rather than actually plan a recipe. For example: date night or leftovers. When I did use Plan To Eat for a bit, I was only planning a few recipes but using a lot of words. I like doing it right in TeuxDeux because I can plan a week really, really fast. Because I also have my Google Calendar open at all times, I can very quickly cross check with our schedule while doing my plan to see what evening events we have going on. (I can also quickly see Matt’s calendar and know which nights Mazen has dinner with him, which affects our plan.)
3 // Create A Shared, Digital, Check-off-able Grocery List
Thomas and I use the iPhone Reminders app to manage our shared grocery list. I add to it throughout the week, and it’s easy to check things off in the store without pen and paper. So when I make the meal plan, I add to this list. I think apps that automatically create a shopping list are great if you have a totally empty fridge and pantry, but so often we are using up staples like rice or spices that we already have, and you have to remember to cross those off. So a simple “add it myself” list is what works best for me. I can also group things together such as “salad ingredients,” which allows me to shop what’s on sale in the moment verses having a list that says “1 zucchini, 2 peppers, 1 broccoli” and not remember which is for a recipe and which is for salad staples.
4 // Set Reminders
During the 20 minutes or so I am making the meal plan and grocery list, I also set up any reminders I will need throughout the week. These are mostly “thaw something” or “put XX in crockpot” for the mornings the task is due. This way I can forget about the meal plan until a reminder pops up.
5 // Bookmark Recipes
I’d say only about 25% of our meal plan is made up of brand new recipes to try. We are kind of boring and also like to create our own a lot of the time or fall back on favorite staples (like spaghetti and meatballs, which doesn’t require a recipe). But I do look to new recipes for inspiration, and as I navigate the web and blogs see ones that I want to try. So instead of a fancy system, I’m just bookmarking them! It’s really the simplest solution because even if I do end up formatting them in some fancy way, I often do reference the actual blog post for more photos or descriptions. I find Pinterest kind of a pain to click through, and I like that bookmarks are just one big written list (with some favicons for visual!), so that’s what I’m doing for now. When I’m meal planning, I just reference this list and choose a new recipe to try. If we LOVE the recipe it will stay on. If we tried it, liked it, but probably won’t make it again anytime soon, it gets deleted.
So there you have it. My meal plan success that is really just a few very simple tweaks!