Meal planning is more than just making a list of recipes. Learn how to make a simple 14-day plan that your family will love!
Everyone has those crazy times of life. It might be for just a few days or a week, or it could be for much longer depending on what the source of the crazy is. Sometimes all you can do is hold on and try to survive. And sometimes it’s during a long crazy season that you develop really great coping techniques, such as this one I’m going to show you about meal planning.
Once upon a time, I had five children under the age of eight in my home. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was during that season of having a lot of young children that I learned some of my best coping skills. I learned to do things like dressing them all alike whenever we left the house. That way, if one child got lost I’d know exactly what he was wearing. People thought it was cute. Little did they know I was terrified of losing one of my children and not knowing what he was wearing.
I also learned how to feed my family three meals a day, every day, without resorting to take out or frozen dinners. I learned that when I have a plan for food, my life is much less chaotic. After much trial and error, I found a system that worked for me during that crazy season of life. And I’m going to share that plan with you; I call it the 14-day meal plan.
14 Day Meal Plan
So, grab a sheet of paper or print up the handy planning sheet and write down your family’s favorite 14 meals for dinners, and their favorite 7 meals for breakfast and lunch. But, before you write any meal down, make sure it meets the following criteria:
- Can be made with items you normally stock in your pantry
- Most members of your family like the meal
- There is something on the list for everyone – everyone doesn’t have to like every meal, but everyone should have a meal or two that they can look forward to
- Most meals can be made fairly quickly – for my family this means in under an hour with minimal hands-on time
Once you have your meals picked out, write them on your calendar. As you’re writing them on the calendar double check your schedule and make sure you can actually make the meal you are assigning to that day. Save your more involved meals for weekends or when you’ll be home all day.
After you go through the 14 days for dinner meals (or 7 for breakfast and lunch) just reassign the same meals to the next 14 (or 7) days. I promise you, your family won’t notice. In fact, it will be several months before they notice – if you don’t mention it. At some point, someone will mention that it’s been awhile since you’ve made chicken alfredo and then you can take something off the 14-day list and add chicken alfredo in its place.
Survival Meal Planning List
To give you some ideas, here’s what is on my “survival” meal planning list:
Breakfast: Oatmeal (2x), pancakes, egg taquitos (2x), cream of wheat, and fruit crisp
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (2x), bean burritos (2x), lentils and rice, taco salad, and potato bar (Sundays)
Dinner: Spaghetti, shepherd’s pie, taco soup, chicken quarters and rice, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken alfredo, fajitas, hamburgers (or meatloaf muffins), stir fry, potato soup, soft tacos, roasted chicken, homemade pizza (Fridays)
I feel like I need to give a little clarification on this meal plan. I always have fruit and vegetables available, either fresh (from the garden or store) or frozen or canned. Therefore, I don’t write those on the master list but might write them on the calendar. We also always have salad fixings available and I can throw a salad together pretty quickly.
I also try to make sure to not to put any meal on the master list that someone really dislikes. I’m okay with us not caring for a certain meal, but I don’t put something on the list that someone just can’t stand. There are plenty of things we all like to use to fill up the list. If I know I’m making something that someone doesn’t care for, I’ll make sure that I have plenty of salad available and that the sides are things he (or she) likes.
I don’t really plan for desserts. Since I keep staples on hand we can put together a dessert pretty quickly using what’s in season pretty quickly, like this cranberry pear spoon cake or lemon shortbread cookies.
I also don’t necessarily plan for leftovers at dinner since our dinner meals are more expensive than our lunch meals but if we have leftovers, I’ll package them into small containers for my husband and older boys to take to work for lunch. If we still have leftovers, we’ll eat them for lunch the next day or so.
At some point, you won’t be in survival mode and you can plan your meals differently, but I’ve found that when things are busy, I go back to this 14-day cycle so it’s one less thing I have to think about. If you think you’ll be in a crazy season for a while or if you need more variety, you could do two sets of 14 meals and rotate the meals once a month.
What are some ways you keep your family fed during crazy times?