I keep a recipe binder with some blank pages at the beginning where I can jot down new ideas or suggestions from my kids. I realized that I never used our recipe cards, but once I put them in sheet protectors and organized them in a single binder, it was easy to flip through them for inspiration.
My recipe binder is divided into sections based on the meal themes that I chose for my week—I’ll explain themes next—each filled with some of my favorite, go-to recipes. I’m always adding to my master recipe lists with new ideas I’ve seen on Pinterest, learned about from the meal planning service Plated, or heard about from friends. I would love to know your favorite recipe websites, please comment below.
I LOVE Theme Nights
I love dedicating Mondays to meatless soups made in a crockpot and Tuesdays to tacos. Just having a meal theme to inspire me each day of the week makes it much easier and more fun to plan in advance.
Simplifying your meal planning doesn’t mean repeating the same meals over and over again—in fact, a theme can make it easier to explore different, exciting flavors. On Taco Tuesdays, my family may do fish tacos, chicken tacos, beef tacos, or even veggie and bean tacos. It seems like the recipes are never the same!
Try themes that work with your family’s tastes. Or, feel free to use my family’s theme nights to get started:
- Meatless Monday
- Taco Tuesday
- Wok Wednesdays or Grilled Chicken Wednesdays
- Beef or Breakfast Thursday
- Finger Foods Friday or Pizza Friday—a nice surprise for my kids and me alike!
I love to base my meal plans on the end of summer/fall weather—if it’s rainy, I like to use the crockpot to make a hot meal, and nothing is better than a refreshing salad on a warm, sunny day! That said, it’s important to take your daily schedule into consideration too. If we have back-to-back games, I might put a pre-cooked chicken and bagged salad on the agenda.
I also try to be flexible to keep things interesting for the family. For example, my oldest daughter had dinner at a friend’s house recently and absolutely adored their shish kabobs, so I swapped our Wednesday Wok theme night for shish kabobs to surprise her!
Try to make cooking easier on yourself as a treat for not overspending on unplanned meals out. Whether it’s using the grocery store salad bar fixings for taco night, making your own pizza, or buying the pricier, pre-cut veggies occasionally, do what works within your daily schedule. Take time to cook when you have it, but when you don’t, allow yourself to take healthy shortcuts, in next weeks blog I will give some tips on how to cheat when this whole system fails. What are your favorite “cheat meal” shortcuts for when you forget to plan? Please leave ideas in the comments section of this blog.