I’ve tried to meal plan the normal way in the past. I really have. For a few weeks, we even followed the amazing book Cook Once, Eat All Week. It was great, and I highly recommend the book, but we couldn’t maintain it. Regular meal planning and batch cooking just doesn’t work for us. But we were also spending way too much money on eating out, and food was going to waste in our fridge. So, I had to figure out something. So, here’s what works for us and how we finally stopped eating out all the time. It’s easy meal planning without actually meal planning.
Keep a list of recipes handy
First, I came up with a list of recipes or even just meats that we liked. For example, when we eat salmon, we typically do a rub or a honey teriyaki marinade. When we do chicken thighs, we usually do Itlian or lemon pepper seasoning. Ground chicken is usually sweet potato chicken nuggets (way better than it sounds – find it here) or burgers. If we do something special, I’ll look up a recipe or figure out what’s going to be the most delicious to us, but for the most part, we stick to a variety of recipes we know we like. Having a list of things we typically do is super helpful for the following steps.
Use a meat delivery service
In the past, we would go through our grocery store’s weekly flyer and buy whatever meat was on sale. Or we would buy the same meat over and over and eventually get bored. It just didn’t work for us. But then we found ButcherBox, a meat delivery service that’s seriously saved us. ButcherBox has a few different options for the types of box you can buy.
We personally opt for the slightly more expensive box, so we can choose what type of meat we get. Every month, we go in and pick what meat we want that month, and it gets delivered to our door. Plus, the meat is super good quality, and as a member, you can get great deals on extra meat. Personally, it’s saved us money too. If you use my referral link above, you can get $50 off!
The reason why ButcherBox is so helpful because it gets us meat we love with a little variety. It means we can open up the freezer every morning and go, “Okay, we have chicken thighs, salmon, and ground beef. What are we in the mood for tonight?” Since we have our handy list of recipes, it’s easy to pull out whatever we’re feeling that day and not have to do any research or reach for what we’re cooking. It makes for really easy meal planning.
Set an alarm in the morning or night
Here’s generally how we do things: I have an alarm that goes off every morning at 8 AM. Then, we go to the freezer and decide what we’re in the mood for. We pull it out and let it thaw throughout the day. We used to just try and remember to take something out, and we would constantly forget. So, we wouldn’t remember until it was too late to thaw something or even until dinner time. Now, I have an alarm that reminds me every morning, and I don’t shut it off until I’ve taken something out.
Keep staples in the pantry
This goes for both sides and things like olive oil/seasoning. As I mentioned, we eat chicken thighs a lot, so we make sure to have that Italian and lemon pepper seasoning on hand. But the real point of this tips is that we make sure to have our standard sides at all times.
So, we don’t typically decide what sides we eat until it’s dinner time, and our tired level determines how much work we want to do. We always keep rice (white, jasmine, and pilaf) and whole grain pasta on hand. For veggies, we eat what we got at our local farmer’s market or we use a steam bag of veggies. Constantly having a variety of stream bags of veggies has done wonders for both our veggie intake and our cooking consistency. You pop it in the microwave for five minutes, and you’ve got veggies. It’s great. Highly recommend.
Keep easy meals on hand
With two small children, sometimes you finish the day, and you just don’t want to cook. For nights like this, we make sure to keep easy meals on hand. For us, that’s an oven pizza or chicken nuggets. Keeping something in the freezer that we can easily cook when we’re tired is typically good enough to stop us from ordering food. So, I would highly recommend having something on hand that’s easy to cook, even if it’s not the healthiest thing in the world. As long as you’re not doing it all the time, an occasional easy/treat night is nothing to worry about.
So, that’s how we meal plan without meal planning. We have our list of recipes, we make sure we have meat on hand we like, we make sure it dethaws in time, and we keep our staples in our pantry. For when we really don’t want to cook, we’ve got easy meals, so we don’t eat out. Even if we spend a little more money at the grocery store for convenience, it still saves us way more money than if we ate out as much as we used to.
What do you think? Did you find this helpfuL?
Erin Lafond is a writer, website creator, and mom. She survived new motherhood by Googling things a lot, calling her mother, and embracing trial and error. Now, she shares her knowledge with all new moms. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and son (soon to be two sons!).