Meal planning

Two or three years ago, I started to plan my weekly menus. Before that, we used to decide our meals on-the-go with minimal planning and even though we were pretty good at eating healthy and with little repetition, we reached a point where I needed to have it organized in advance to make my life easier, especially after the kids were born.

What started as an experiment became a game-changer. Since then, I have been planning my menus EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year and I loooove it! It feels so good not to worry on a Tuesday afternoon while you drive the kids around about what we are having for dinner!!! It really took some stress off my shoulders, and I have more control over the quality of our meals in terms of repetition which in the end it translates in healthier meals.

I know some people find meal planning too structured. For me it is a guide throughout the week and I’m flexible about it. I don’t panic if there are last minute changes.

I usually plan our meals on the weekends. I sit down with my cooking books and my favorite cooking blogs and I get some ideas. It may take me half an hour to an hour (it depends on how inspired I am), but the good thing is that I can then forget about it for the rest of the week. I plan breakfast and lunch boxes for the kids, and dinner for the whole family. I only plan weekdays because weekends are less predictable and more flexible. I try to incorporate a couple of new recipes every week but it largely depends on how my week looks like and my mood for cooking… Then I type it in a ridiculously simple word table, I print it and stick it in my kitchen. Zero fancy, 100% functional.

The rationale behind my planning is that at the end of the day we must have had nutritiously balanced meals, and at the end of the week, healthy and varied meals. So, I don’t necessarily make every meal 100% balanced, because it is not easy and probably not necessary. I don’t mind if lunch is heavier on carbs and low in proteins because I will compensate for it during dinner. And yes, we sometimes eat not-so-healthy things, but I’m OK with that because I know that overall, we eat well and are very health conscious in our everyday eating.

This is how I design my planning and it is based on our family needs and food preferences:

Breakfast: because mornings are hectic with three kids to feed and two lunch boxes to prepare in little time, I usually go with easy and fast breakfasts while still trying to be healthy. There is always fruit, either the fruit itself or a smoothie, and something else that is pretty much the same every week but I switch it around. Now and then I manage to add a new breakfast item so the kids don’t get bored. I try to prepare a breakfast with a good balance of carbs and protein to get a good start of the day.

Lunch boxes: the kids always have a main that alternates between rice, pasta and legumes in different formats, tacos, sometimes a sandwich, or whatever leftovers I have; cut vegetables (cucumber, pepper, carrots or cherry tomatoes) and fruit.

Dinner: I try to plan our dinners according to what the kids had for lunch so that at the end of the day we’ve had a nutritionally balanced day. We are not big meat eaters so have meat (red or white) 1-2 days during the week and usually one on the weekends. Meat always goes accompanied by some sort of vegetables and at every dinner there is a salad. The rest of the days we have vegetable-based meals, maybe one day pasta or rice, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) and soups. We don’t have fish as often as I would like to, maybe once every two weeks (which I know it’s not good enough) but I have a hard time finding good fish here. And finally, there is always fruit as dessert. I don’t really plan which one we’re eating because my refrigerator is overflown with fruit so everyone gets to pick whatever fruit they want for dessert.

So, this is basically it. Here you will find the plan I prepare for my family. Some recipes have the link to the blog recipe, others are in the process. You will see it is not a fancy menu with fancy recipes, it’s a real menu for a real family, it’s what we eat. I know it is not perfect and there is room for improvement, but that’s the beauty of it. Some days you will find more elaborate dishes, while others plain grilled chicken with a salad will be it.

I hope some of you get inspired and get some ideas. If you haven’t tried planning your meals yet, I strongly encourage you to do so! And then let me know how it went, would love to hear your experiences!

You can see all my menus here!!