How Meal Planning Is Like Getting Dressed


I feel about meal planning the same way I feel about dressing myself. I know there are a thousand things in my closet, but I still feel like I don’t have anything to wear. And the things I do wear I wear over and over and over.

Same thing with meal planning. I have a gazillion recipes pinned. I have a notebook full of hand-written recipe note cards and recipes torn from magazines or printed from the web. I have at least 10 cook books in my house (granted, they’re covered in dust but still – I have them). I know I have endless options, and yet, I keep cooking the same things over and over.

I have such good intentions, I do. I imagine myself sitting down with Pinterest, or that notebook I mentioned above, and carefully selecting the things I’d like to cook this week. Then I would write the ingredients down on a list (in an organized manner, of course) to be taken to the store later.

In reality, the grocery store list is usually scribbled furiously in the car prior to going into the store, without checking the fridge and pantry for things I might need vs things I already have. So I inevitably leave without something I need or come home with something I already have. Not to mention the fact that this last-minute simultaneous meal plan/make a list hybrid is causing me to feed my family the same 6 meals week after week.

But now that I have a blog about family meals, I figured it’s time to get my act together about meal planning, and the beginning of the year seemed like a good time to do it.

I usually know better than to make New Year’s Resolutions. But this year, I did it. I resolved to be better at meal planning. Of course, a general “be better at…” goal was never very likely to work, which on some level I guess I knew. So it’s no surprise that I’ve continued with my haphazard in-the-parking-lot-of-the-grocery-store meal planning style for the first six weeks of the year.

But all is not lost. I’m recommitting. After reading this excerpt from Maryann Jacobsen’s book, What to Cook for Dinner with Kids, over on RealMomNutrition, I have a new plan for making my plan. She calls it “The Dinner Formula,” meaning you assign each night a category such as Pasta Night or Mexican night and plan from there. As with any type of decision making, narrowing the choices makes it easier, and the formula does this for you.

So, I’m making up my formula and stating it here in the hopes that it will help me stick to it.

menu formula


Obviously, I built a few options into the formula, but I feel pretty good about it. I have more time on Sundays, so a casserole or soup in the crock pot makes sense. And Wednesdays are the only day we don’t have something going on after school so it’s a good day to tackle a new recipe – but I’m not ready to commit to a new recipe every week so I added the pasta option too. Thursdays the girls have soccer or basketball and we’re always home late so it has to either be ready to serve as soon as we walk in or something easy and fast like scrambled eggs.

I think – if I can stick to it – this will be good for us. The girls – like most kids, I think – really like “rules” that help them know what to expect. And if they know every Tuesday is tacos, they may be more likely to try a new vegetable on Monday – because they know something they really like will also get a turn.

And I love anything that helps me cut back on decision-making. In fact, I may just try a wardrobe formula too…dress on Monday, black pants on Tuesday…etc.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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