The Humble Meal Plan

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I get it — making a meal plan doesn’t sound exciting. I doesn’t hold the same aesthetic promise as other “Get Organized” ideas, such as Kondo-ing your socks or putting all your pantry items into weck jars (I mean, really, how pretty is that?). BUT, BUT! this humble, almost retro task (doesn’t it just evoke a 1950’s ‘housewife’ clipping coupons while cross-checking her meal plan) can make a huge difference in your home.

So, how do you create a meal plan for your family? Here’s how I do it with my clients: we always choose one meal to start with (ultimately, I advise having both breakfast and dinner meal plans; I’ve never done lunch). Once we’ve decided which meal we’re working on, we brainstorm:
1. What are meals your family enjoys?
2. What are meals you enjoy cooking?
3. What meals are economical?
4. What foods would you like to incorporate more of into your family’s diet?
Then comes the fun and creative part; from the answers to the above questions, we look at the days of the week and assign meals (we’re going to assume we chose ‘dinner’ for this example) to each day based on: family schedules (is this an evening when the family could spend some time cooking together or is this a rush to get dinner on the table evening?), what was eaten the night before (balance: a vegetarian meal followed by a meat evening; a trusty favorite followed by more a “reach,” etc.).

There are countless fun and creative ways to organize your meal plan: the meals can be based on countries (Italian night, Mexican night), style of cooking (Crockpot Mondays, Wok Wednesday), protein source (Meat Monday, Tofu Tuesday) or type of food (Pasta night, Soup night) and so on.

Finally, once the meal plan is sorted out, it’s important to convey (with enthusiasm) and display (with beauty) your plan, so the whole family feels part of it (Rhythm!). There may (probably will) be resistance both from you (if you’re the cook) and from the rest of the family, as is always the case with something new. So, gather up your parental resolve before you present the plan, so you can hold fast to it.

After the first few weeks, the meal plan will have been embraced and, along with it, the myriad benefits of meal planning will have become evident; benefits which include: fewer trips to the grocery store, less picky eating, more home-cooked meals, healthier meals, less complaining about food, less brain “real-estate” taken up with deciding what to cook and less money spent on groceries.

In my own family, and in the families I have worked with, the results of the meal plan are far beyond what was expected and have much greater impact than any neatly-folded sock drawer!

*Want help creating a meal plan? Contact me at lisa@handmadeparenting.com

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