"How often are you adding new meals?"
"Do you cook the same meals every week?"
"When I sit down to meal plan and it's just overwhelming. Where do I start?"
"Do you cook separate meals for your kids?"
Weekly meal planning is always evolving for me. I almost never experience the same week twice. I'm constantly trying new dishes and new strategies to help keep me on top of things. "Well if I can just pre cut this," or "if I just made smoothies every afternoon for snack then..." or "ugh, my refrigerator is cluttered, again. How many leftovers do I have in there?" and on and on it goes. It can feel like you're never going to win.
We can win! We do win! Let's just break it down a little and keep it simple.
PS: NO ONE meal plans perfectly all the time. This is how I learn and have grown into a much freer me. Trial, error, trial, success, trial... it is a process that we all go through. Embrace the real and see the Wins that are in front of you.
The more "bumps in the road" you experience, the more you learn and can overcome them the next time they come up. So go ahead and "hit those bumps!" (especially in the kitchen)
Here's how my brain works. Take what works for you.
First Things First
#1 Know Your Calendar.
When I sit down to plan, I first look at my calendar and decide what days I can cook, need leftovers ready, or be prepared to order out. Meal planning does not immediately mean all home-cooked meals. It just means you have a plan to eat.
There Are SO Many Meal Options. How Do I Choose? Where Do I Start?
Start with Last Week
Think of all the meals you had last week, even the ones you ordered. You can repeat meals! In fact, you can stick to one set of weekly meals for as long as you want until you feel you're ready to add or change up another element. Sometimes I can get in my own head about this, but as I tell myself all the time... keep it simple, Cara, no need to channel your inner Gordon Ramsay all the time.
If you're ready for some change,
Replace 1, 2, 3... Meals
Replace and add as many new meals as you'd like, but know that you DON'T HAVE TO. Be realistic and reasonable with what you can actually do that week. Do you have time to stand over the stove? Maybe you can add a new meal, but it needs to be a one-pan, set in the oven type. Replace one realistic meal at a time. The more different types of meals you cook, the easier it will become to you and the more confident you will become with your creative ideas. I know you already have them!
I love searching Pinterest for ideas: "one pan chicken dish", "italian...", "stir fry meals "meals with broccoli", "easy oven meals"
We Eat the Same Thing All the Time! or, I Have Picky Eaters. What Can I Do?
Change One Element and You can Change Up a Familiar Meal
Yes, you can change the entire meal, but you can also tweak a meal everyone already loves by just looking at the form or style your meal is cooked as OR keep the ingredients but introduce a new spice(s) or flavor.
Change the Protein
Example: Chicken Tacos to Steak Tacos
Example: Egg Shakshuka to Salmon Shakshuka
Tip: challenge your thinking about your Protein options. Try new ways of introducing other protein elements like nuts, or nut butters, plain greek yogurt, tofu, seeds.
Change the Spices or Flavor
Example: Italian Lasagna to Taco Lasagna
Example: Chicken stewed in Coconut Curry to Chicken stewed in your favorite Italian Tomato Sauce
Change the Carbohydrates: the Veggies
Example: Steak and Broccoli to Steak over Mashed Cauliflower or Potatoes
Example: Chicken Stir Fry with Broccoli & Onions to Chicken Stir Fry with Green Peppers & Mushrooms
Change the Style or Form
Example: Traditional Tacos to a Taco Soup or Chili
Example: Something as simple as Mashed Potatoes to French Fries
Example: Chopped Salad to a Lettuce Wrap
Example: Cheeseburger (sandwich) & Fries to a One-pan Cheeseburger "Mash" Casserole
REMEMBER: Keep It Simple, Add Slowly
I love to try new recipes and cooking techniques, but it's not always realistic for the particular week or day. If you must, add one new "complex" meal for the week. Get it out of your system. Give yourself something to look forward to if that's what you like. But for the sanity of your mind and your family, it is OK to keep it "regular" or "boring". There are others way to bring a dish a life than having to channel your inner Gordon Ramsay. lol
Ask yourself... What is good for me this week?
Thanks for reading! And no matter what meal you sit down with tonight, enjoy it around a table with the people you love.
Feel free to comment, message me, & share with others.