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Meal planning is kind of my thing. I enjoy doing it, I think I'm pretty good at it, and I share dozens and dozens of meal plans and menus here at workingathomeschool.com to help you keep good food on the table. But I'll let you in on a little secret…the printable meal calendars and menus are not my preferred method of meal planning. I came up with the menu board meal planner because I really needed something easier and more obvious for the whole family.
I work from home, homeschool three kids, and chase after two toddlers all day. Sometimes I look at the calendar and see that I've planned a more involved recipe for that day, and I want to bang my head against the fridge. I think everyone can identify with having a meal plan, then just not feeling it when it's time to start cooking.
When we have a slower month, I use the printable calendar. When I'm busy, I write everything on the menu board and pick what sounds good and can be made in a hurry.
This is the easiest, best way to meal plan when you are crazy busy and open the fridge to see food has gone bad, and it must be thrown out (one of my biggest pet peeves ever).
Here's the process:
- I inventory my fridge, freezer, and pantry and write down what I have on hand (this usually takes me about 15-20 minutes, and I like to call out ingredients and have my kiddos write it down for writing and spelling practice). Another option is to grab the receipt from your latest shopping trip and add possible ingredients.
- I make a list of meals I can make with those ingredients, and write down anything I'm missing to complete a meal.
- Then I grab a sparkling water and sit down with my chalk markers and make the list of what we have to eat.
That's it! It's so simple, but it solves so many problems. Here is a link to the chalkboard I use (I bought mine frameless a long time ago, and the newer version is framed, which is cuter!), and these are the chalk markers.
All of my many meal plans and menus here at workingathomeschool.com have the THM letters next to them. But after being on plan for over 3 years, I rarely write the letters down for myself! When I posted a picture from my kitchen to share this meal planning method, I didn't think about adding the letters. But as I got several requests this morning, I updated the post with the recipe cookbook page #s or links and the type of recipe below. Most of these recipes are from the newer Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook or the original Trim Healthy Mama book.
Cottage Cheese Toast (E) (Cottage Style Toast p. 238-239 in the original THM book)
Granola (E) (Chocolate Nut Crunch Granola p. 255 in the THM Cookbook)
Berry Creamy Oatmeal (E) (Berry Creamy Grains p.252 in the THM Cookbook)
Protein Shakes (S, E, or FP, depending on ingredients); this S recipe is my favorite: THM Peanut Butter Blizzard
Cereal (I use this recipe, and it's an S)
Omelets (S) – we keep our simple and throw in 1/2 diced avocado, diced tomato, and cheddar cheese
Scrambled Eggs (S)
Giant Baked Blueberry Pancake (E) (THM Cookbook p. 261)
Salad w/ protein (S, E, or FP, depending on ingredients)
baked sweet potatoes (E) (I add leftover chicken breast to mine for protein)
rice & beans (E)
THM Pizza (S) (THM Cookbook p. 211)
chicken breast & beans w/ fruit (E)
chicken breasts and rice (E)
leftovers (S, E, or FP, depending on what they are!)
Mexican Cottage Cheese Salad (FP) (THM Original Book p. 302)
Sausages and Salad (S)
All FP, if you use plan-approved brands: THM-approved drinks
Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce (S) (note: this is one of my FAVORITE recipes ever, but go easy on the onions for a THM S!)
Cowboy Grub (E) (THM Cookbook p. 59)
Chuck Roast Tacos (S) – I just stack Mexican-seasoned, cooked roast with cheese, sour cream, salsa, and a little avocado.
Chicken & Quinoa (E)
Swedish Meatballs (S) (THM Cookbook p. 61)
Quinoa Goes Cajun (E) (THM Cookbook p. 69)
Italian Sausage Cassoulet (S) – I low-carbed my favorite Pinterest recipe for this one.
Coconut Thai Chicken (S) (THM Cookbook p. 45)
Steak Bites & Veggies (S)
Creamy Chicken and Mushrooms (S) (I omit the flour on this recipe)
Salami & Cheese (S)
Nuts & Cheese (S)
Cottage Cheese & Fruit (E)
Collagen Berry Whip (FP) (THM Cookbook p. 375)
Berry Crunch Bars (S) (THM Cookbook p. 392)
1/2 Protein Shake (S, E, or FP, depending on ingredients)
Boiled eggs (S)
Strawberry Milk (FP) (THM Cookbook p. 438)
Chocolate Milk (FP) (THM Cookbook p. 439)
Protein Chews (FP) (Superfood Chews THM Cookbook p. 382-383)
Lemon Coconut Truffles (S) (THM Cookbook p. 386)
Here's a picture of my current menu board (all Trim Healthy Mama meals):
This menu board is awesome because since I know what we have, I always know what's available. Instead of ordering pizza, I can check out the board and see the quickest thing to make and do that instead. This has been a lifesaver for eating healthy, because 99% of the time that I'm tempted to cheat it's because I can't think of anything that sounds good or anything I really want to eat. With all of the options on the board, I know I can find SOMETHING appetizing and quick.
I truly hate opening the fridge and finding a bag of slimy veggies or meat that's been thawing for too long to be safe to eat. One of my favorite things to do with this menu board is to add a star or underline to meals with ingredients that need to be made quickly, and we make those a priority so we don't waste food.
I also really love that my kids know what's available to snack on and very rarely ask for something to eat, because they know what we have and where to find it.
Do you use something similar? How do you like to plan your meals?
P.S. – I've been trying to give myself a break by doing something fun, so I've been experimenting with hand-lettering. None of my menu boards have turned out well enough to share with you…yet…but I'm working on it! Hand-lettering is a super fun way to make the menu boards interesting, if you're good at that kind of thing (which I'm not…yet, lol).
linked up at the Home Matters Link Party