Learning how to meal plan can be a huge game changer when it comes to feeding your family healthy meals, but it’s also a concept that can be challenging and overwhelming. Try these 10 tips to learn how to meal plan to reap all of the benefits, but avoid making yourself stressed and crazy over doing it perfectly!
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How to Meal Plan
We chatted with KJ Dell’ Antonia about her take on meal planning, which she discusses in her book How to Be a Happier Parent. (Side note: The whole books is awesome, so check it out regardless of your views on meal planning! She had some great tips for us that you can hear in full in the episode. Here are the highlights.
How to Meal Plan Tip #1: Pick Meals Before Hitting the Store
This is my biggest tip. And while I don’t think you need to plan every single ingredient of a meal, generally knowing what you plan to have can help you avoid mid-week extra trips to the store…which always add up to more dollars than we intend! I generally write out a list of dinners and leave the produce flexible so I can see what’s on sale.
How to Meal Plan Tip #2: Stay Flexible
There’s no hard and fast rule that says that once you decide what you’re having for dinner one week that things can’t change around. Move Tuesday’s tacos to Thursday if you need to—it’s all good!
How to Meal Plan Tip #3: Cook Food that Makes YOU Happy
One of my favorite tips from KJ is that we need to start cooking more for all of “us”, not just for the kids. That can go a long way towards keeping the cook happy and ensuring that you’re not just serving up favorite “kid” food.
How to Meal Plan Tip #4: Teach “Not Every Meal Will Be Your Favorite”
This! This has been a huge help in talking to my 6 year old about meals she doesn’t love and it totally makes sense to her. So the next time your child complains about a meal, remind them that you don’t have to love it to eat it and maybe tomorrow night will be your favorite…because we all have unique likes and dislikes and we ALL deserve to have a chance to eat our favorites!
How to Meal Plan Tip #5: Use Theme Nights and Family Favorites
If your whole family loves spaghetti and meatballs, there’s no reason that you can’t make it every Sunday. Or have pizza Fridays or Taco Tuesdays. These benchmarks can make meal planning much easier and they can be nice routines to get into with the kids. (Though warning: If you do this for a while and then suddenly don’t do it, make sure you prep the kids! Don’t make the mistake I’ve made—once they learn to expect something, they expect it!)
How to Meal Plan Tip #6: Be Realistic
If there’s one night in the week when you’re running kids to and from practice or lessons, make that sandwich night. Or boxed mac and cheese night. Dinner doesn’t always have to be elaborate to be good!
How to Meal Plan Tip #7: Lower Your Bar
Related to tip #6, sometimes—and especially when the kids are little—lowering our dinnertime expectations can go a long way in making our meals happier. This can be related to how much time everyone spends at the table, how much everyone eats, or whether or not you have any adult conversation. Try to relax and just let family meals be what they are!
How to Meal Plan Tip #8: Skip Meal Prepping
Meal planning and meal prepping are two totally different worlds and the latter can be VERY intimidating since it involves cooking many recipes ahead of time in one fell swoop on the weekend. If you find that helpful and satisfying, do it! If it makes you want to crawl into a hole, you 100% can skip it. Do the type of planning that works for you, your schedule, and your life right now.
How to Meal Plan Tip #9: Post Meals Publicly
I’m not talking about social media, I’m talking about in your house. By posting a list of dinners—whether it’s a fancy white board or chalkboard or a simple list on the fridge—you can get some buy in on the meals from the rest of the family ahead of time. And you let your partner or older kids have a chance to help prep the meal!
How to Meal Plan Tip #10: Know When to Fold
Even the best meal planners aren’t perfect, so know that you 100% can bail on a planned meal if you just can’t get it together to cook it. Give yourself a break when you need to and let the kids have toast or cereal or some other no- or low-cook super simple meal. (We’re big fans of scrambled eggs for dinner over here!) Or: There’s always takeout!
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this podcast episode, so please comment below or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you have feedback on meal planning or have a general feeding kids question for us, we’d love to hear from you!