I have been struggling with dinners for as long as I have been responsible for feeding myself. It felt like I never knew what to eat and nothing sounded good in the moment. I started planning weekly and that worked okay but eventually I would hit a snag and skip planning for the week. Then it would all fall apart, I’d spiral, and three weeks will pass before I do a proper meal plan and grocery trip. So, in January, I made a change to monthly dinner planning, and it is working!
Quick note: I am flexible with the schedule I create. Some weeks I will switch around the meals depending on what we are feeling, and I allow myself grace to take the night off cooking if I need to. The key is to have a plan to fall back on for when you drop the ball.
Step 1: Do a quick survey and tidy of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. You can either make a list of everything you have or just make a mental note of what you have. This is where I evaluate what I have in reserves that can be used to make dinner throughout the next month. Ex. I had three cans of breadcrumbs in my tiny pantry cabinet. So, in January and February, I made sure to add meals that would use them up.
Step 2: Print out a monthly calendar. You could do this digitally but for me I like having something to write on and stick on the fridge.
Step 3: Start filling in your calendar with what you have planned for the month. Note the dates you are out of town, dates you are working late or having guests, or any other event that may dictate what you can and can’t cook.
Step 4: Assign categories to the days of the week. A follower suggested this to me, and it has been so helpful. We have done Meatless Mondays for the last few years but adding more categories has been a game changer. Here are mine: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Bowl Wednesday, Leftover/Freezer Thursday, Family Favorites Friday, Simple Saturday, and Slow Cooker Sunday. You can be as strict with these as you’d like. I prefer to be flexible, so Taco Tuesday is really Mexican Tuesday, Bowl Wednesday is anything we eat from a bowl, etc.!
Step 5: Using the information you collected above, fill in the calendar with dinners. I like to refer to the previous month’s dinners, my Pinterest, and a few trusted cookbooks. The key to not getting burnt out is adding in enough simple, comforting meals. Sure, we want to eat healthy, but it needs to be sustainable. Add in simple sides like frozen broccoli or cut up fruit if your meals need a healthy boost!
Step 6: Put that calendar up on your fridge. Each week, pick a day to prep. You will need to repeat step one and tidy your fridge, freezer, and pantry. This is also the time that you can make an adjustment to your plan if something has changed. Make a grocery list, shop, and you are set! If you want to get crazy, you can prep the food for the week.
Bonus tip! Keep your lunches, breakfasts, and snacks simple. I prefer to make simple lunches like snack boards, sandwiches, or pasta, and for breakfast we typically stick with eggs, bagels, and pancakes. Life is hard enough so don’t stress yourself out over crazy meals all the time.
Make sure you follow me on Pinterest if you are looking for recipe ideas!
April Dinner Plan:
- French Bread Pizza
- Out of town
- Orange Chicken
- Veggie Lo Mein
- Bean Enchiladas
- Hamburger Pasta
- Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes
- Sheet Pan Fajitas
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Broccoli Pasta
- Potato Tacos
- Hamburger Gravy
- Slow Cooker Chicken Potpie
- Veggie Burgers
- Salmon Bowls
- out of town for the rest of the month!