Meal prep is one of the things I am determined to streamline in 2018.
Why does it feel like it takes hours each week to plan what to cook, make a list, get groceries and actually cook the food?
I want us to have healthy, yummy food but there has to be an easier and faster way to accomplish that, right?
That’s why I decided to experiment with a few meal planning techniques at the beginning of the year.
First on the list is using themed dinner nights.
There are many great resources on Pinterest to give you ideas for different meal themes, like these:
You have to sign up to get this freebie from Meal Planning Blueprints, but it is totally worth it.
I decided on these themes to make my January meal calendar:
I planned a new meal every other night (since we like leftovers), and I repeated the themes until I filled up the whole month.
I decided to only choose recipes that we have tried before and I knew we liked just to cut down on my work. And I also took it a step further by listing sides that would go with each entree.
During the second week, I went ahead and created a list of breakfasts, lunches and snacks to rotate, so I barely had to think when I made my grocery list each week.
So what do I think about this style of meal planning after a few weeks of testing it?
It is SO MUCH BETTER than the old way of planning meals from scratch each week.
After the initial time I spent creating the calendar, which probably took 90 minutes, my weekly meal planning took less than 30 minutes. And most of that was spent finding lunch recipes.
(If I could come up with a better plan for lunch, meal planning would be a breeze.)
The key to using these themed dinner nights, and planning the whole month’s worth of meals like I did, is to choose recipes you love. Otherwise, you’ll have salmon planned for 3 weeks from now, and by the time you get to that date, you’ll decide that sounds awful.
Another thing I loved about using the themed dinners was that it gave me some structure. I really only had to find 2 or 3 recipes under each category to fill the whole month and that was very doable.
Next month, I will be focusing on freezer cooking, especially since that will help me make a good stash of meals for April when I have a new little one at home.
But it’s nice to know that even if freezer cooking doesn’t end up being my jam, I can go back to themed nights at any time.