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If you’ve never tried meal planning or tried it before and gave up, it could be that you just haven’t found the type of meal planning that works for you.
After all, we’re all different. We’ve got different personalities, different needs and different families so why would we think that meal planning comes in a one size fits all option?
In fact, even once you start meal planning, it’s going to change as you move into different phases of your life – as the kids get older, new little ones are added to the family and when money gets tighter or more plentiful.
With that in mind here are five types of meal planning you can use to save your health, your time and your budget that I learned from watching Erin Odom of TheHumbledHomemaker.com on the Mom Conference.
#1 – Seasonal Meal Planning
In seasonal meal planning, you literally plan around what produce is in season. Why? Because it’s cheaper.
Can I hear a whoot!
For example, you’ll eat more soups in the winter and fall made with squash and other winter veggies and fresh salads in the spring and summer.
To use seasonal meal planning, just brainstorm some different meals your family already loves based on what’s in season right now.
And, if you don’t know what’s in season, check out FieldToPlate.com and they can tell you what produce is in season in your area.
As you can imagine since this type of meal planning is based on produce at a lower price, it’s healthy for your body and your budget.
#2 – Dish Type Meal Planning
With dish type meal planning, you’re going to take a certain type of dish and assign it to each day of the week.
For example: Monday is casserole night, Tuesday is a slow-cooker meal, Wednesday is a skillet meal, Thursday is for a salad, Friday is pizza night, Saturday is leftovers and Sunday is an instant pot meal.
The great thing about this type of meal planning is it eliminates the decision fatigue of trying to figure out what you’re going to have. You know that if your setting up Monday’s meal, you’re going to only be looking at your casserole recipes.
It makes for the perfect meal planning when things are at their most crazy.
#3 – Protein Type Meal Planning
Protein type meal planning is very similar to dish type except what changes each day of the week is the type of protein.
So, on Mondays, you cook a beef recipe, Tuesdays a chicken recipe, Wednesdays is vegetarian, Thursday is pork, Friday is seafood and so on.
This is the type of meal planning we use in my house because my husband is a big protein guy so this works perfectly for us.
#4 – Family Meal Planning
This one is completely different.
Here, you get your family in on the meal planning action.
You can let your kids and husband decide what you’re going to have on certain days, have each member of the family plan out a whole week or sit around the table and brainstorm together.
I absolutely love this idea because it teaches your kids to meal plan, a valuable skill for when they leave the nest.
#5 – Backwards Meal Planning
Sound strange? Don’t worry it will be clear in a second.
Backwards meal planning is when you shop for groceries first then plan and it’s great for when you’re on a really tight budget.
You could shop based on the grocery store ads, choosing what’s on sale and pick up meat and produce from the clearance bins then pick out recipes to use – and it’s easier than you think.
Recipe.com and Feastie.com both let you plug in the ingredients you have on hand and then give you a choice of recipes that you can make. Feastie even lets you exclude recipes based on allergies, like gluten and nuts.
How many meals do I need to plan?
Whichever method you decide to use, you should meal plan at least one week at a time to save yourself extra trips to the grocery store. And, you could even plan for a whole month if you’re ambitious.
The key is to plug your plans into your calendar so you know what you’re eating each day and to be sure to pull out any meat that needs to thaw the night before or at least by eight o’clock in the morning.
If you’re worried about being bored by meal planning, be sure to come up with 21 different recipes that fit with whichever meal planning type you’ve chosen so that it’s three weeks before your family is eating the same meal again.
Give yourself grace.
If one type of meal planning doesn’t work for you, it’s not because you failed – it’s because it just wasn’t right for you right now. Give it another shot using a different method and you’ll find one that works for you and your family.
Also, if you want to get your kids involved more in both the meal planning and the cooking so that they learn to be better stewards of their health and their money, check out KidsCookRealFood.com.
You’ll be passing on vital life skills to your kids and they’ll be able to feed themselves far better than Ramen noodles and take-out when they finally leave the nest.
Meal planning can seem overwhelming but it’s actually a great way to save your health, your budget and your sanity. And, with the five different types of meal planning above, you can find one that works for your family, your budget and your season of life.
As always, I wish you a strong family, optimal health and smart incomes,