Meal planning sounds like a fantastic idea, but it can be difficult to execute if you're not a planner. This is a super simple thing you can do that will help you figure out what to cook for dinner each week.
You did it! You made a great dinner and everyone loved it.
You think to yourself...
- I'm definitely making this again."
- Of course I'll remember to make it because it was such a hit.
- There's no way I'll lose this recipe or completely forget I made this in the first place.
- I'm awesome!"
Fast forward two weeks later...
- You are dishing out pasta and meatballs for the third time in eight days.
- You are drowning in a sea of marinara.
- You know that you've made some fantastic dinners in the past, but you cannot recall for the life of you what they were.
- You think to yourself, "I'm the least creative dinner planner in the universe. We're going to eat the same three things over and over again until we die. I quit."
I have a solution, and it's really, really simple:
KEEP A DINNER DIARY!
Nothing fancy...just a little notebook where you write down the dinners that your family has enjoyed. I bought my notebook at Michaels for $1.50, and I use it to record everything from the simplest meals to the most complex (meals made for guests, special birthday dinners, etc).
Whenever I'm wondering what to make for dinner, I just flip through the notebook to get inspiration from what we've liked in the past and what we haven't had in a while. I keep it in a kitchen drawer with a pen so I can quickly jot down any new favorites as soon as we're done eating; otherwise I know I'll forget.
As a bonus, it can serve as a time capsule of sorts, sure to provide endless entertainment when the kids are grown. I can picture my girls paging through it in their 30s, saying, "Remember how we use to eat KALE?" and then dissolving into hysterical laughter.
By then kale will probably be named as the cause of 56 horrible diseases and we'll all be eating things like tree bark, lizard eggs, and freeze-dried dirt.
I know the concept of meal-planning can be daunting for some (myself included), but this is a quick and easy thing that anyone can do to make sure you never forget your family's favorite dinners. AND...once you've built up a list of, say, 10 dinners that everyone liked, you can use it to create two Monday-Friday meal plans that you just repeat every two weeks.
I don't think I'll ever be the type to create a weekly grocery list and plan out every single thing I'll need for a given week, but I do like having a loosely structured plan for the dinners we're going to eat during the week. My little dinner diary has me helped tremendously, and hopefully it'll help you, too!
For more helpful tips, check out my list of posts on Feeding a Family, or one of these related posts: