I've only been actively meal planning since early this year, and I really had no idea how much of my sanity it would save. I now try to jot down at least 2 weeks worth of dinners in advance (being intentional about "shopping" our fridge, freezer and cabinets so I make use of items I already have on hand!) and then each week I know what to add to my grocery and Costco shopping lists. I've cut down on what I spend each week significantly because of this. There have been weeks here and there when literally the only things I needed to buy were produce, dairy and a couple other pantry items that were very, very much on sale.
There's something about spending less than $30 on groceries in one week that makes one sold on the idea of meal planning. Can I get an amen?
In order to make this work for us, the thing I've had to cut back on is trying new recipes. I found that when I was searching for more unique, random recipes just to throw something exciting into the mix, I ended up with leftover ingredients that I had to find use for (and, consequently, more new recipes I'd never tried). During this season of life, I'm actually pretty happy sticking to about a dozen things I know how to make well, are easily modified to be a little different here and there, and that I know my family likes to eat. I'm sure there will be time down the road when I can be fancy-pants with the weekly menu, but for now? I mostly stick to what I know.
Enter: lazy-lady menu planning! Every weekend I jot down the next week (or, if I'm ambitious, two weeks) of meals and go from there. I rarely stick to the actual day that I write the mail down for, but at least I know I have one of 7 options to choose from every week. It's worked out rather nicely.
I thought I'd share a list of the recipes that show up most often on our weekly rotation of meals!
Keep in mind that the list is specific to my own family's shopping habits, food preferences and my personal level of culinary skill (which is not at the Iron Chef and/or food blogger level, let's just say that). Although we do eat fish (and are social carnivores), we stay almost completely meat-free here at home—both for budget and health reasons. However, all of these recipes are easily modified to include some sort of meat, if that's your preference.
For the record, these "go-to, easy dinners" have the following qualifications:
1. Relatively low cost
2. Most ingredients are items I typically have on hand or buy often
3. Quick-ish prep (even though some require veggie chopping, which I personally enjoy)
4. Fool proof (meaning it's simple to prepare—probably with a 3 year old constantly underfoot!)
Now it's time for you to give me some ideas to add into the mix. What are your favorite easy dinners? Anything I have to try? I'd love to add in some new recipes here and there.
Also! A portion of the awesome resources within this Ultimate Homemaking Bundle are geared toward cooking and meal planning: 8 eCookbooks, 12 eBooks on meal planning and other foodie goodness, 2 complete eCourses on grocery shopping and meal planning (I'm loving the Grocery University eCourse!), and a free 90-day membership to a meal planning website. Take a peek at everything you get for less than $30—and let me know if you have any questions!
Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here.