Are you interested in minimalist meal planning because you know it’ll make your life easier? Keep reading to learn my tricks on how to make meal planning easy as a minimalist and gain control over your schedule.
Minimalism is a philosophy and way of life that values living with less. And that stretches past physical stuff in our homes to minimizing time commitments, toxic relationships, daily routines, and other elements of our lives.
Minimalism can be a theme that weaves throughout every part of your lifestyle.
And something we all want to simplify and minimize is meal planning.
Meal planning is at the heart of homemaking and successful home management, and by taking a minimalist attitude to meal planning, you can focus on other everyday tasks instead of worrying about dinner.
Meal planning will make it easier to plan around busy days by matching easy meals to those days. So routines and rhythms you create can work together with meal planning.
No one enjoys rushing around at dinner time trying to throw a meal together. And no one likes going to the grocery store five times per week because you overlooked an ingredient.
I decided to stop struggling every night with dinner with two impatient little kids at home.
So I designed a minimalist meal planning framework and digital meal planning recipe list to use in conjunction each week. And it has made weekly meal planning simple, intuitive, and sustainable.
Here’s how you can take a minimalist approach to meal planning.
Step 1: CHOOSE 2 MEALS THAT ARE EASY CROWD-PLEASERS
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and feel like you need to provide new dishes all the time (something I struggle with).
Ask your family what their favorite meals are, or maybe you already know. Write those meals down and cycle through them each week. When you go grocery shopping each week, pick up the recurring ingredients you need and be on your way.
Once you determine which meals you can make repeatedly, try to tweak them to turn them into fresh meals if you want to flex your creativity.
Switch out the protein, change the vegetable combinations, use a different sauce, choose a new cooking method, or serve with a special side dish.
This practice should be simple because you are already working with dishes your family loves. Tweaking popular recipes is an excellent trick for incorporating seasonal ingredients or cooking techniques (like grilling outside).
Give yourself a break by offering these meals weekly.
Step 2: CHOOSE 2 THEME DINNER NIGHTS
Dinner theme nights are fun, firm up your meal plan, and also add variety to your meals.
A meal theme can truly be anything from pasta night to salad night to Meatless Monday.
For example, my family loves breakfast for dinner, so I make it every week. Breakfast for dinner is a broad concept, so it looks different every week.
Some weeks I make a quiche and a side vegetable, and some weeks I make scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, and a side vegetable.
The meals are different but within the same theme. A great theme will provide you several meal ideas and be customizable.
Step 3: CHOOSE 1 NEW RECIPE OR ONE THAT TAKES MORE TIME
This is a wildcard day that will bring more variety to your meal plan.
And since you have been choosing super simple meals to create during the week, this is a day where you can flex your creativity muscle.
This meal would work best on a weekend or week-day where you have more time to devote to cooking.
You can actually get excited about creating a new dish because you have been cooking simple meals all week.
Or if you don’t want to make a new recipe, you can cook something that takes a little longer.
My family loves slow-simmered pork shoulder in tomatillo sauce. But since it takes hours to prepare, I only add it to the day where I have the most time.
And even though the pork shoulder takes a while to cook, it always gives us leftovers. So I cook once, but we eat twice.
Step 4: PLAN 1 MEAL USING INGREDIENTS YOU WANT TO USE UP
Have food that has been in the pantry for a while? Or is the milk about to spoil? These ingredients will not magically disappear, or if they do, it is because we throw them away.
To save money and resources, use what you have. Dig around your fridge and pantry to find ingredients you have been ignoring and bring them to the front.
Think of it this way, once you use these ingredients you won’t stare at them anymore!
Think about the ingredients that get wasted the most and start there.
Once I realized that milk was always going sour in my house, I made chocolate pudding or rice pudding each time we didn’t drink the milk fast enough.
My family is thrilled about this.
Build a meal around the milk that has a few days left, or the vegetables that have been sitting in the crisper for a few weeks.
You could incorporate these ingredients into a quiche or casserole because they are forgiving.
For example, a roasted vegetable and feta cheese quiche would be incredible to use vegetables and feta cheese. Or a casserole with milk and other odds and ends from your pantry.
Let your creativity shine and transform these ingredients so they’re not wasted.
Step 5: LEFTOVERS
When you’ve been cooking all week, there are bound to be leftovers in your fridge.
I know some people like to have leftovers for lunch, but I’m here to push for you to eat leftovers for dinner.
Save the leftovers for dinner where they can feed more people at once, allow you to spend zero time making dinner, and perform some market research.
Lunch can comprise a simple snack plate, a sandwich, or a salad that takes less time to prepare.
When I prepare leftovers for dinner, I heat everything at once, and we eat it as a buffet.
So each week on leftover night, notice what meals everyone is fighting over so you can make those again next week.
And what dishes are not getting eaten with as much gusto.
Eating leftovers is crucial to cutting down food waste. And you are going to feel amazing when they don’t sit in the fridge forever.
Related Post: Transform Your Leftovers in 6 Easy Ways
Step 6: MATCH EACH MEAL WITH A DAY OF THE WEEK
Look at the meals you have chosen and assign them a day during the week that matches your schedule on that day.
If Wednesdays are busy, make that leftover night. If Sunday is usually open, prepare a new recipe or recipe that takes longer to cook.
Related Post: A Meal Theme For Every Night of the Week
Use this meal plan repeatedly. There is enough variety to keep you interested while also leaning on crowd-favorites.
Plug in new meals to change the meal plan at any time.
The next part of your meal plan is a physical or digital meal planning recipe system that you can look to each week for ideas if you want to switch up your meal plan.
A meal planning recipe list is a list of recipes you know how to make and incorporates a family and time rating so you can choose meals your family loves with none of the guesswork.
This is a system to organize meal planning and unload it from your mind forever.
Putting this system together takes a little time, but once created, you can use it over and over when you need to plan dinner for the week.
So, how do you create this recipe list and organize meal planning?
First, you need a google doc or a good old-fashioned pen and notebook. Both ways work well, but I prefer a digital spreadsheet, so it’s a that never looks messy and can be updated easily.
Brain-dump all the recipes made in the past that your family liked.
This is a hard part because you have recipes tucked away that your brain can’t remember.To uncover hidden recipes, think back to each season and try to remember the meals you made at those times.
Or think about the meals your family requests for birthdays or celebrations.
Or pick a protein and think of the recipes made with it (chicken: chicken parmesan, chicken paprikash, chicken soup…).
This will probably be a long list, and there will be plenty of time to add recipes you forgot later on.
Remember, this list is a living document. The purpose of having these recipes written down is so you can shop from them later when meal planning.
Now that you have a ton of meals written down, go through each meal, and try to remember how much your family enjoyed it.
It can be hard to remember, so don’t get too upset if you only have a few ratings to start with.
I’m sure some meals elicit stronger reactions than others, like in my home.
For example, you might write down that 3 out of 4 family members liked the recipe, or the meal got eaten right away, and there were no leftovers.
Update the system with family ratings right after you enjoy the meal so you can remember all the details.
Rate each meal on time to prepare.
The time rating should be simple to come up with for each meal and will be a huge timesaver when looking for a recipe for a busy day.
I like to rate recipes as 30 minutes or less, 40 minutes-1 hour, longer than 1 hour.
Now, time to plan your meals for the week!
Pull meals from this list for your weekly meal plan and feel the stress melt away.
As you prepare each meal, adjust the time rating and family rating, and you will have an accurate picture of what’s working and what’s not.
Are you ready to organize meal planning?
I guarantee managing your recipes this way will make your life a lot easier, and you will no longer dread meal planning.
What are the meals your family enjoys most? Let me know down in the comments!