THE STORIES  Erin Hultgrenn

Erin Hultgrenn

My Meal Plan System in 3 Easy Steps

Ok, I admit it. When I got married I was hopeless at cooking. In my defense, I was barely 23 and had gone from my mom’s amazing home cooked dinners to my college sorority house where our cooks made us amazing dinners to being married to a big, strapping man who I wanted to provide AMAZING dinners for. Oh man was I lost, though.

I spent so much time and money trying to figure out what to buy at the store, which recipes to make, and when to make them! It was a HUGE time waster and so stressful, exacerbated by the fact that I was working 12 hours shifts at an urgent care clinic as a registered nurse at the time.  Enter meal planning. I have been meal planning for around 14 years now (minus a few hairy months with babies in the mix) and my process has slowly evolved over time. I have now come up with a plan that works fantastic for our family, and offers me significantly more freedom with my time, not to mention peace of mind.

When I started out, I would print out a blank monthly calendar and fill in what I planned to make for dinner each day. Then I would make a grocery list based on what I needed for those meals and go grocery shopping twice a month. That way I knew I had the ingredients I needed on hand to make the meals. It was a pretty basic plan, but worked great for my husband and I and helped me learn how to grocery shop as well as make dinner for two!

After about a year, meal planning became second nature. As more and more children joined our family, however, I admit my meal planning fervor began to die, lol! I still did the basics, but I really just wanted someone to cook me dinner and I didn’t want to have to think about it any more. I mean, I had four boys under five, several of them in diapers. The problem was, while I was sooo tired, I also REALLY wanted to ensure we had a loving family dinner table, where we all sat together, prayed together, and ate together.

About 6 months ago I challenged myself to begin meal planning again. I revamped my meal planning process and it’s been working!

Here’s how I did it:

STEP 1 – I sat down one afternoon and wrote out six different weekly meal plans 
STEP 2 – I got out six folders. In each folder, I put one of the weekly plans, along with the recipes for those five meals. I should note that I don’t pre-plan for weekend meals because that’s when we have BBQs with friends and eat leftovers a lot. So, my weekly plans included five dinners.
STEP 3 – I wrote out six different grocery lists for each of those weeks and placed each in its respective folder.  

NOW, every Saturday I grab a folder off the stack, stick the menu up on my fridge, add the grocery items off the list to my online grocery cart (that’ll be another blog post) and I KNOW I’m all set for the week. At the end of the week, I put the menu back in the folder, set the folder on the bottom of the stack, and then grab the folder off the top of the stack for the next week. DONE. Every meal gets eaten every six weeks.

This is a very customizable system. If you’re ok with eating the same meal every four weeks, just make four folders, or if you wanted to do eight, that’s awesome too — whatever meets your family’s needs. I will most likely use my six current weekly menus for over a year. That’s right, thanks to my system, I won’t have to think about what I am going to make for dinner or look for a recipe, OR figure out a grocery list for over a year!   

For someone who used to look at her kids in a panic wondering what she could cook up for dinner, utilizing a meal planning system doesn’t just save me a TON of time, it allows me to be more present and pleasant with my family at dinner time.

And here’s another fun downloadable template for you to start meal planning!

“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” – Acts 2:46

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