Last Updated on August 19, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
Meal planning in a large family seems like it would be absolutely necessary. But for many years, we managed to get by winging it. Mostly we went to the grocery store every 2 days and made sure we bought enough for those 2 days. It resulted in us spending a lot of extra time and money at the store when having a plan would have saved us both!
With children from toddlers to teens, meal times are a great way to actually see everyone every day. When everyone has a schedule and they are racing around, dinners together have a way of bringing everyone together. Having timesaving easy meal plans ready to go makes it possible to have a meal together nearly every day without a large burden on mom. Having a simple meal plan is also a great skill to pass on to teens who are thinking about moving out one day.
For many years, my meal planning was sporadic and disorganized. Sometimes, I made a plan for dinner for the week and sometimes not. I often defaulted to a bad habit…waiting until 3 or 4 in the afternoon to think about dinner. As a result, meals were often something like spagetti, frozen pizza or mac and cheese, because they were kid friendly and used ingredients I kept on hand.
Having tried different systems over the years, I had had some success with meal planning, but never committed to a system long term. However, while trying to lose weight with Noom, it became very clear that to sustain that weight loss, I needed a consistent plan…and it needed to be easy! I knew I needed a plan…but what would it be. While watching one of my favorite Youtube channel’s, The Minimal Mom, I was intrigued by her habit of only buying groceries that they would use for that week. Initially, I disregarded this tip, but the idea kept swirling as I pondered what that would look like with a family of 11 people.
I knew my meal plan needed to solve a LOT of problems.
Table of Contents
Problems Solved by My Meal Planning:
- Meals needed to be healthy (eventually)
- Meals needed to be easy
- Be ones that we all liked.
- Be economical
- Be able to be made with Aldi ingredients
- Be something my kids could make in part or in full
A System for Meal Planning:
Once I identified the main problems to solve, I went about creating a system that could be easily adjusted if necessary:
- First Step: I went around the house and asked everyone for their favorite meals. From this, I created a list of meals that everyone liked.
- Second Step: I used a 2 week plan and filled it in with favorite meals being careful to rotate ingredients so we didn’t have several nights of chicken or rice or whatever in a row.
- Third Step: I went to my digital calendar ( I used Google calendar right now) and plugged these meals into the calendar. I set them to automatically repeat every 2 weeks
- Fourth Step: If I could think of one, I added a complementary side to the meal in the calendar
- Fifth Step: Assign meal nights to my oldest 5 children. They help prepare meals Monday to Friday.
- Sixth Step: Make a weekly shopping list based off the Week 1 or Week 2 dinners.
As you will notice, this meal plan only includes dinners. In our house, mornings are very busy. We have adults and teens going to work, others going to school and others taking homeschool classes, so breakfast is usually something easy like cereal, toast or leftovers. Lunch is usually leftovers or sandwiches. Because of our kids ages and stages, we rarely have prepared lunches unless it is a large family gathering on Sunday. That said, simply addressing the dinner plan has lifted a HUGE burden from my shoulders and has served as a tool to involve my older children and teens in the process more.
The Benefits of a Meal Planning
- Regular favorites are served often.
- Eating leftovers is not a problem when the leftovers are something everyone likes.
- Kids are happy (most of the time) to help cook because it yields foods that they want to eat.
- Once a basic dinner plan is established, it is easy to start adjusting the recipes to make them healthier or lower fat.
- Using a meal plan makes it easy on a diet because you can calculate calories/points one time and just reuse that information over and over.
- If a meal starts to become boring, it is easy to swap out it out of the rotation with another meal. Simply change the meal on your calendar and add/subtract ingredients from the weekly shopping list.
- It removes a lot of stress and brain power because the thinking is already done.
- It serves as a great base for freezer meals. Many of these regular meals can be easily made in bulk and frozen to reduce the cooking load even more.
- Using a meal plan also makes it easier to budget. If you are working with a set budget, you can establish consistent grocery spending by reusing the same meal plan over and over.
After resisting a real commitment to meal planning for many years (hey, I’m a free spirit!), I have found so much more freedom by committing to what is truly a flexible meal plan. Having a framework…a system for planning meals yields big returns. A little bit of time spent on this one practical goal can lead to more free time to do things you love. I encourage you to give it a try this week!
Want to try our Simple Dinner Plan for Free? Check it Out Here!