What to do if your Meal Plan Isn’t Working | How to Troubleshoot Your Menu Plan for Success

What to do if your Meal Plan Isn’t Working | How to Troubleshoot Your Menu Plan for Success

So about a month ago I published a video and post about the crazy way that I plan out my meals for the entire year in one evening.

(If you don’t believe me, you can watch me do it here! :))

A lot of people really liked the concept and decided to try it out… but as I was talking with one of my subscribers, she mentioned that it was not going quite as well as she had hoped.

I realized that there are a couple of additional tips that could help, not only her but other people who are trying to implement a meal plan into their life as well.

So in this post, I’m going to go over some ideas for how to make your meal plan easier and how you can make it work for your situation!

Now before we get too far into this post, if you haven’t seen The Crazy Way I Meal Plan and 50 Theme Night Ideas for your Meal Plan, you may want to check out those two posts first to get a little context.

But for everyone who is ready to get started troubleshooting their meal plan, let’s get to it!

If you prefer to watch the video, you can check it out here:

What To Do If Your Meal Plan Isn’t Working

1) Customize Your Theme Night

The first thing you want to do is make sure your theme nights are customized to your life.

It can be really easy to read a post by someone on the internet and just think, “well this is working for them, I’ll just do exactly what they are doing.”

But that doesn’t always work because my meal plan is customized for my life… and everyone else on the internet’s meal plan is customized for their life.

So you can take the overall principles that I am sharing, but you want to make sure that the theme nights you are using are working for your current schedule and for how busy you are.

If for example, you had used the exact same theme nights that I did in my meal plan, you would realize that Tuesday and Thursday nights for us are easy nights. And that is because, Pre-Covid, those were our busiest nights of the week.

But your family may be busy on Monday and Wednesday so having easier meals on those nights would make more sense for you.

So if something like this is your problem, all you need to do is rearrange around your theme nights!

2) Simplify Your Theme Nights

Now, if you’ve tried moving around your theme nights and your meal plan still isn’t working for you, it’s also possible that you have too many difficult theme nights.

As I talk about in this video and this post, there is a *wide range* of theme nights for you to choose from.

There is everything from eating the same exact same dish every Tuesday night (one of our theme nights), to eating a brand new meal every Wednesday (another one of our theme nights).

And there are a *whole bunch* of theme nights in between those two!!

When I was first creating my meal plan, I was really excited to try 6 different complex theme nights (because of course we still had our leftover day :)!

But then I realized that it just didn’t work well for my life. I also realized that I didn’t enjoy cooking that much, and I didn’t want to be cooking time-intensive meals every night of the week.

So if this sounds like where you may have gone wrong in your meal plan, go back to the theme night ideas post and choose some easier theme nights for your family.

PRO TIP: When you are starting out with meal planning and learning how to stick with it, it is better to go too easy with your theme nights than to have them be too complicated.

When you go easy you can always make it more complicated later if you are enjoying it and want to cook more…

But if you start out with things too complicated, you can easily get discouraged and give up on the meal plan.

So make sure that your theme nights fit your schedule, your life, your busyness, and even how much you like to cook.

If you don’t like to cook, there is no reason to spend a lot of time cooking every single night!

What to do When your Meal Plan Isn't Working... and How to Fix It!

3) Create a Rotation

Another thing you can do is create a meal plan rotation.

I talk more about creating a rotation in the post, How to Create a Meal Plan, and the video, A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning.

But basically, you create a set of meals and rotate them at a regular interval.

So the easiest way to do this is to create a one-week rotation.

For a one-week rotation, you choose 6 meals (plus one leftover day) and you will repeat the same meals in the same order every single week.

A lot of minimalists out there suggest creating a very simple rotation because the truth is… this is the simplest way to plan your meals.

It takes very little time to plan, it takes very little time to implement, and it takes very little time to cook when you are planning your meals this way.

The reason that I don’t meal plan this way is because we all enjoy a wide variety of food and we wouldn’t like to eat the same meals over and over again.

If you would like to simplify your meal plan but think you might get bored eating the same thing every single week, you could also create a two-week rotation.

In that case, you would decide on 12 meals (plus one leftover day each week). Then you would go through the rotation twice a month.

You could also create a four-week rotation and repeat the meals once a month, every month of the year.

4) Have a Meal Prep Day

Now, if you would like to make your meal plan easier, but eating the same meal every week doesn’t sound fun, you can have a Meal Prep Day once a week.

Now I personally don’t do this because our weekends are busy. But if you have mellow weekends, this could be the solution to all of your meal planning problems!

When you have a prep day, you simply do all of your chopping ahead of time.

Then, each night of the week, all you have to do is the actual cooking of each meal.

This could work well for you if you are anything like me, and chopping takes you forever.

The bulk of my cooking time is spent chopping the vegetables for my meals. *Especially* if I am cooking something with onions in it… which is everything.

Onions make me cry, which means I can’t see what I am chopping, which means I have to stop chopping so that I can stop crying, then I have to start chopping again, which means I start crying again… it’s a whole thing.

But the point it, if you can do all of your chopping work ahead of time, it will save you a lot of time each week in the kitchen.

*PRO TIP* If you are chopping onions ahead of time, make sure you aren’t just putting them in a plastic bag. Your entire refrigerator will smell like onions. Don’t ask me how I know. Instead, put any prepped onions into a sealed glass container. You’re welcome. 😉

5) Create a Double Meals Rotation

The last trick that you can try if your meal plan isn’t working for you, is you can double your meals and use them in the future.

Now I know this doesn’t sound like we are making life easier… but stick with me, I’ve got a plan!

The first week that you do this, you are going to choose 4 meals that store well or freeze well, and you are going to double them.

Then the next week, you are going to eat those 4 meals.

On the other three nights, you are going to cook 3 meals and double them. And the following week you will eat the doubles, while only having to cook 4 meals… and so on.

So each week, you will be eating your doubles from the previous week, and only needing to cook on half of the nights.

Even though it is a little bit more work to do this the first week, it gets significantly easier as you go.

Again, this isn’t what we do at our house because I already double everything and we eat leftovers for lunches every day. But if your family prefers to eat sandwiches, or soups, or anything that you need to cook for lunch, this is a great option that will save you a lot of time in the dinner prep department.

So what do you think? Will any of these ideas work well for your family? Which ones do you want to try?

Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?

Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!

In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to 

  • Create a Breakfast Rotation
  • Create a Lunch Rotation
  • Create a Snack Rotation
  • Choose Theme Nights
  • Create Rotations for Each Theme Night
  • Fill in Your Meal Planning Calendar

Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!

Plus you will receive the Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook and Spreadsheet and email support from me anytime you have questions.

I hope to see you inside the course!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Meal Planning Resources!)

Want 7 Extra Hours Every Week? Grab the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide!

You Might Also Enjoy…

The CRAZY way that I Meal Plan or you can watch the video of How I MEAL PLAN my WHOLE YEAR.

How to Use Theme Nights in Your Meal Plan… Plus 50 Theme Night Ideas and you can watch the video here.

See you on the next one! Kassy
The Crazy Way I Meal Plan | How I Meal Plan for the Whole Year in Less than 3 Hours

The Crazy Way I Meal Plan | How I Meal Plan for the Whole Year in Less than 3 Hours

I’m super excited about this post because I am *finally* going to show you the crazy way that I meal plan my entire year out in less than 3 hours.

Really.

Now when most people find out that I plan out my whole year of meals in advance… they have a lot of questions.

  • The first thing that I’m going to do is answer some of the questions that I commonly get. And I’ll let you be the judge of if I should see someone for my insanity or not. 😉
  • Then, I will walk you through the supplies that you will need if you want to try this out.
  • And lastly, I’m going to show you the step-by-step process for how it’s done.

Plus as an added bonus, I’m going to time myself this year so that you an see how long it takes!

Feel free to skip down to the meat of the post if you don’t care about why I put the time into this project.

And If you are more of a watcher than a reader, check out this video where I show you the entire process from start to finish:

Why I Only Meal Plan Once a year

Alright let’s dig into the reasons that I put myself through this.

The first question that people usually have when they find out that I only meal plan once a year is…

You Meal Plan for the Whole Year, Really?

And the answer is: yes!

If you don’t believe me, watch the video above! At the end of the video you will see that every dinner menu spot is filled in on the calendar for the entire year.

It’s been about 4 years now that I have planned out my meals in advance, and I will never go back to doing it any other way.

The second question that I get a lot is…

Why Would You Do This?

I have a couple of answers for this one:

The first is, I don’t really like meal planning.

So if I can batch this chore and do it once a year, I am a happy mom.

The second reason is that I find it to be much more efficient.

If I can sit down and get it done once instead of coming back to it every single week, or every single month, it takes much less time.

I have tried meal planning just about every other way, and this is the only way that I have been able to stick with my meal plan for the entire year.

Another question I get a lot is…

Meal Planning My Whole Year in Advance. Yearly Meal Planning changed my life. Let me show you how it's done! Plus a Free Meal Planning Checklist

Why Is This Any Better Than Planning a Week or a Month At a Time.

Like I said in the last answer, I think that it is much faster to do it all at once.

I’ll let you know at the end of the post how long it takes me to do the entire process, but if you think about it, it just makes sense that it would take less time.

If you sit down to meal plan every single week, you are starting over every time you meal plan.

You have to get out all of your cookbooks, your calendar, and you have to make decisions. And at minimum, this will take you between 15 and 30 minutes… every. single. time.

When you do it all at once, you can cut your time down considerably.

(Watch the video or read to the bottom of the post if you want to find out exactly how long it takes me!)

Deciding what to eat is the hardest part of meal planning because we moms have so many decisions to make every single day.

And if you meal plan weekly, that is 7 more decisions that you have to make each week.

Getting those decisions out of the way will save you time, energy and stress.

Next question!

What If I Want Something Different Than What is on the Menu?

So… I don’t really know how to break this to you…

But writing something down with a pen and paper doesn’t mean that you have to do it.

All you do if you get to a certain week and you want to eat something different, is cross it off and write something else down.

No harm, no foul.

It’s easy, trust me!

But even if you have to make a little change here and there, you are still saving yourself tons of time throughout the year.

And the last question I get all the time is…

What happens when you have company?

And depending on the situation and who the company is, I may do several different things:

  1. I might just stick with my meal plan. I have a whole post and video showing you how to meal plan for the holidays while using the theme nights that you already have.
  2. I might just skip a meal. If I know someone is coming and a meal on my plan isn’t their favorite, I will just cross it out and put something completely different on there. (See the last question 🙂
  3. I might bump a meal into the following week. If I was really looking forward to making something and I find out that my company isn’t a fan of it, I’ll just bump that meal into the following week and move the following week’s meal into this week.
  4. Or I might even make a crazy meal planning Tetris game and move things all over the place with really cool arrows. (Pens are great for this!)

Since it usually takes me less than 5 minutes to figure out how to adjust my meals if company is coming, it is still way less time-consuming to plan things out ahead of time than it is to wait and do it one week at a time.

My Meal Planning Tools

Alright, now I’m going to show you exactly what I use to plan my meals for the year:

1) My Meal Planning Calendar

  • Breakfast Routine Worksheet
  • Lunch Routine Worksheet
  • Snack Routine Worksheet
  • Types of Theme Nights 
  • Theme Nights Ideas 
  • Choosing Your Theme Nights Worksheet
  • 12-Month Meal Planning Calendar
  • This Week’s Menu Template

You can get the Set-It-and-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook here!

But if you prefer something different I recommend the Big Grid Family Organizer. I used it for about 3 years before I created my own calendar.

I’ve also used the smaller Amy Knapp Planner for meal planning and I like it as well, but the Big Grid worked a little better for me.

I would suggest using the small planner if you want to be very detailed in your meal plan and you have a lot of things going on each day. I would use the Big Grid Organizer or the Set-It-and-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook if you don’t have as many things that you need to write down each day and you want something to hang on your wall.

2) Fun Pens

The next thing that I always have is a pen that writes well in a color that I like (for me, the purpler, the better!)

It’s just a little more fun to write a whole bunch of things down when you are using a pen that you like and that you enjoy seeing over and over and over again.

Create an Easy Meal Plan for the Whole Year and Save Money!

3) Cookbooks

I always have my cookbooks out and handy when I am meal planning.

My favorites are

I’m slightly obsessed with the Revive Café Cookbooks because they have a picture for each recipe, the recipes are simple to replicate, and they use ingredients that most normal people would know what they are and know where to find them (which is surprisingly not true of a lot of plant-based cookbooks).

The only drawback to the Revive cookbooks is that he doesn’t quite season his recipes as much as I would like… so I just start off by doubling the spices that he suggests and ramping it up from there (I like me some flavorful food!).

Vegan Yum, Yum also has delicious recipes, but the recipes are a bit more complex and can require more unique ingredients.

4) Spreadsheet

Ya, I know, I’m a little strange… but having a spreadsheet for meal planning makes my life easier each time I map out my year.

I created the Set-It-and-Forget-It Google Worksheet with everything that you need to organize your meal plan!

  • Breakfast Routine Worksheet
  • Lunch Routine Worksheet
  • Snack Routine Worksheet
  • Types of Theme Nights 
  • Theme Nights Ideas 
  • Choosing Your Theme Nights Worksheet
  • 12-Month Meal Planning Calendar
  • Camping Meal Plan 

I also use my spreadsheet to keep track of which meals we like, which ones we have tried but didn’t like, and how easy/difficult the recipes are. I also track which season we want to eat each meal in and how expensive they are to make… I get geeked out about organization :D.

How to Meal Plan Your Entire Year

Now that we have everything we need, let’s get started!

1) Assign Theme Nights

The first thing that you want to do if you are meal planning for your whole year is to assign a theme to each night of the week.

Head over to this video or this post for all the deets on how to do this plus over 50 theme night ideas.

But Basically, you just assign some sort of theme to every day of the week…

So Sunday will have a theme, Monday will have a theme, Tuesday will have a theme… and so on.

I like to use a combination of simple and complex theme nights, that way we don’t get bored with eating the same things all the time, but the meal plan also doesn’t become so complicated that we give up on the plan.

Once your theme nights are done, your meal planning will become infinitely easier whether you are planning for a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, or even just a camping weekend or a road trip.

2) Thursday Night

Now that you have your theme nights set you, you can start putting things on your calendar.

I always start by writing in my Thursday nights because Thursday at our house is Leftover night!

So at this point, I go through my calendar write down “leftovers” on every single Thursday.

And yes, I technically wouldn’t have to write it in since it it’s the same every week, BUT I like everything filled in on my calendar. It makes me happy. So I write in the leftovers. 🙂

3) Tuesday Night

The next day that I typically fill in is Tuesday night, which is Vegan Macaroni and Cheese night for us.

Tuesday is another easy night for us because pre-covid we had swimming lessons on Tuesday and Thursday nights and I wanted to make dinner as easy as possible on those evenings.

So… I think I’m going to stick with the same theme nights this year, and hopefully, we will be back to swimming lessons before too long!

If for some reason we are still without swimming lessons at the end of 2021, I might adjust my theme nights.

The Only Way to Meal Plan for Busy Moms: How I Plan My Whole Year in Advance

4) Friday Nights

Now Friday is a different type of theme night than Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday and Thursday are what I call Specific Meal Theme Nights because I use the same meal each week.

But on Friday, I use a category theme night (which I talk about in this post and this video).

Our theme for Friday is Build-It Meals, which is any meal where each person puts together their own plate of food.

And instead of thinking up new Build-It Meals every year, I keep a list in my meal planning spreadsheet. Our build it meals include:

  • Falafels
  • Tacos
  • Gado Gado
  • Burgers
  • Portobello Fajitas
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Don Buri
  • Burritos
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Malaysian Laksa
  • Yum Bowls
  • Hot Dogs

And I will just start on the first Friday with Falafels and rotate through the list until the end of the year!

5) Saturday

Next, I will fill in my Saturdays.

Now, Saturday is a very different day for us because… again, pre-covid… we used to go to church on Saturday.

And because of this, we would usually eat a late lunch and just have a light supper.

So all of our lunch/dinners on Saturdays will be haystacks (which is like a taco salad).

And I will also put into the calendar my rotation of light suppers, just like I did for the Build-It Meals in the last step. (See how having a spreadsheet with your rotations can be handy?!)

6) Sunday

My Theme for my Sunday is Time-Consuming Family Favorites.

Since Sunday is a slower day at our house and Ross is not working, this is where we break out all of those meals that are delicious to eat, and difficult to make (I’m looking at you hand-made pasta.)

And of course, I keep a page in my spreadsheet with a list of all of our favorites. I categorize the list so that I can easily see which favorites take more time to make, which ones are best in each season, and how often we want to eat each favorite. (Hi, I’m Kassy, and I’m addicted to spreadsheets.)

So for example, one of our time-consuming family favorites is Pot Pie.

It take a lot of time to make, everyone would like to eat it every other month (actually, they would all love to eat it every week… but it takes a LONG time to make). BUT it is a very hot meal to cook and to eat.

So when I am going through my calendar, I will only put it down on every other month in the fall, winter, and spring.

7) Monday

Monday this year is going to be Simple Family Favorites.

So I will look back at my spreadsheet and put in all of those family favorites that are nice and easy and work well for a weekday.

8) Wednesday

Now if you have been keeping track, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve moved from writing in my easiest theme nights to writing in my most time-consuming ones.

Why is Wednesday time-Consuming? Because Wednesday night at our house is New Meal Night.

That means that I have to find 52 new meals… every year!

So yes, it takes me a little bit more time to write in my Wednesday night… and I put it off until last!

To help me find the recipes faster, I keep a Pinterest board with recipes that I want to try in the coming year, and I go through my cookbooks to see if I want to make anything new out of them!

So How Long Did it Take???

This year, creating my meal plan for the entire year took me…

drumroll, please…

The Easier Way to Meal Plan: How to Meal Plan for the Whole Year in Less than 3 Hours!

2 hours, 45 minutes, and 45 seconds.

Now, keep in mind that I’ve been doing this for several years now and it took me a bit longer the first time around. So keep at it and I promise that this will make your life easier!

Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?

Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!

In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to 

  • Create a Breakfast Rotation
  • Create a Lunch Rotation
  • Create a Snack Rotation
  • Choose Theme Nights
  • Create Rotations for Each Theme Night
  • Fill in Your Meal Planning Calendar

Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!

Plus you will receive the Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook and Spreadsheet and email support from me anytime you have questions.

I hope to see you inside the course!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Meal Planning Resources!)

If you want more Yearly Meal Planning Fun…

Check out my 2022 Yearly Meal Planning Video!

Want 7 Extra Hours Every Week? Grab the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide!

You May Also Enjoy

How to Create Your Own Theme Nights

If you want a step-by-step guide for setting up your meal plan, check out How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start

For ideas about how to eat everything you buy, read How to Work Leftovers into Your Meal Plan

If you want to learn more about Decision Fatigue, check out Why Is Meal Planning so Difficult

For Quick, Healthy Breakfast Ideas, read How to Get Started Planning Quick Healthy Breakfasts

See you on the next one! Kassy
An Easier Way to Meal Plan: How to Meal Plan for the Whole Year in Less than 3 Hours!
How to Meal Plan for the Holidays like a Minimalist

How to Meal Plan for the Holidays like a Minimalist

Meal Planning at any time can be challenging…

But Meal Planning during the holidays can be downright stressful!

Not only are there usually more people that you are cooking for, but you are often hosting for multiple days at a time.

So how do you set up a killer meal plan that your family will love, without making yourself go crazy with all the extra work?

It’s not as hard as you think!

Here’s how it’s done:

How to Meal Plan for the Holidays

1) Stick With The Routine

Breakfasts

If you typically use a simple weekday breakfast every day of the week, like I recommend in this post, then continue doing that!

You don’t have to prepare fancy breakfasts every day just because you have a company.

If you like to do more elaborate breakfasts on the weekend as I talk about in this post, go ahead and do that if you’d like, but don’t make things too complicated!

Since you will be doing a lot more cooking than usual during the holidays, I recommend doing easy breakfasts every day (aside from maybe a special brunch on Christmas Day.)

How to Have a Simple and Stress-Free Holiday Meal Plan that your Guests will Love!

Lunches

If you eat leftovers for lunch every weekday as I recommend in this post and this one, you can still continue to do this when you have company there.

Especially since you will be putting in all the work of making delicious food every evening, it doesn’t hurt to get two meals out of each time you cook!

Just have an alternate easy meal ready for lunch each day that you have guests.. just in case you do not have enough leftovers.

Here are some examples of easy lunches that you can have on stand-by if needed:

  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Casseroles
  • Soups
  • And any other Meals that are Easy to Make!

If you don’t end up using the easy meal for lunches because you had plenty of leftovers, use the food for dinners the following week after everyone leaves… then you can save yourself a trip to the grocery store and a bunch of extra time in the kitchen after a busy holiday… you’re welcome.

Dinner

If you are using my Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Technique and have created Theme Nights for every night of the week, don’t throw your plan out the window just because you have extra company… use it to your advantage.

Other than the specific holiday, like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, keep all of your theme nights the same.

So if I were hosting the Thanksgiving Weekend at our house, it would look like this:

  • Thanksgiving Day: Special Holiday Family Meal
  • Friday Night: Build-It-Meal Night
  • Saturday Night: Dips and Chips/Crackers
  • Sunday Night: Family Favorites Night

So the only night of the week that changed was the Thanksgiving night meal.

When we have Christmas at our house, I like to do a special dinner on Christmas Eve, but I keep the other meals the same on Christmas Eve.

When we host Christmas Day, I like to have a special brunch in the morning, a light lunch, and a bigger holiday dinner. Or we will have Christmas “Dinner” around lunchtime and have a light supper… it isn’t always the same every year, but it is generally one of those two options!

2) Plan The Holiday Meal(s)

Look at How Many People are Coming

Take into account how many guests you will have for the big holiday meal… Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, Christmas Eve Dinner…etc.

Do a headcount and figure out how many people will be joining you for the meal.

Decide How Elaborate You Want to Be

Just because it is Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever other holiday you are celebrating, doesn’t mean that you have to spend a day, or week, or month preparing for the dinner.

If your family loves pizza, and you want to eat that for your holiday dinner, so be it!

We like to get takeout Thai food or Chinese food on Christmas Eve because I will be cooking a lot the following day. (And because we love Thai and Chinese food… who am I kidding!)

Don’t feel like you have to follow any sort of rules, just do what works well for your family!

Create a Minimalist Holiday Meal Plan that Your Guests Will Love

Decide on Your Main Dish

If you are having an involved meal (that is something more than takeout or pizza ;)), then you will want to decide on your main dish first.

Unless you adore cooking, I suggest only making one main dish (unless you can outsource as second main dish, see number 3 down below!).

Our main dish for all of our holiday meals is a vegan Special K Loaf. It’s a family favorite at our house and it goes well with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and traditional holiday side dishes.

Think About Your Side Dishes

You may feel like you have to have all the sides, especially if you are planning a traditional holiday meal… but side dishes are optional!

Think about which side dishes are important for you. Then throw out everything that you don’t love to eat or want to make (unless you can outsource it, see number 3 down below!).

Some side dishes that we love to have every holiday meal are:

  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Cranberry Sauce

Decide on Dessert

Decide on how many desserts and which desserts you would like to eat at your holiday meal (and throughout the weekend ;).

My must-have holiday dessert is an ah-MA-zing Key Lime Pie that my mom makes (if you aren’t afraid of making complicated healthy desserts, check this cookbook out! Everything we’ve tried out of it is divine.)

Most people like to have a few different options for dessert, but desserts can take a lot of time, energy, and oven space to make.

One easy way to have a lot of variety with your dessert is to have each family that is coming be responsible for providing one dessert in addition to anything else that they are bringing.

This also ensures that every family will have their favorite and no one will complain that you didn’t make their favorite dessert because they could have brought it themselves!

3) Determine Who Is Cooking What

Decide What You Are Making

When you are hosting, you get the first pick of what you want to make (yay!).

Many hosts like to provide the main dish, but it isn’t a must, especially if you know someone else who would enjoy making the main dish and do a great job with it.

After you decide if you are going to make the main dish or not, choose any side dishes that you want to make.

How to Create a Simple Holiday Meal Plan Your Family Will Love

Ask For Help

Since most people don’t enjoy making decisions, instead of asking people what they want to bring, tell them what would be helpful for them to contribute to the meal.

Try to assign dishes to people who would be good at making them.

I always have my mom make the desserts because she does an amazing job and she is able to make desserts that fit with my wacky diet (vegan and sugar-free isn’t easy for most people to navigate!)

If someone coming doesn’t enjoy cooking, ask them to bring a salad or store-bought desserts.

But remember not to overload your guests. They may want to take a break from cooking if they are not hosting!

I find it helpful to list out all of the dishes that you want to have on a piece of paper and write down who will be in charge of each one.

Now send those texts or make phone calls to let people know what you want them to bring!

Decide What You Are Buying

If you aren’t able to make or delegate all of your dishes (or you just want a break from cooking altogether!) you can purchase just about anything that you want for your holiday meal at most grocery stores.

But be sure to order in advance so that you don’t have to worry about things being out of stock on the busiest grocery days of the year.

And that’s all it takes to create your amazing holiday weekend meal plan!

I’d love to hear what you are going to have for your holiday meal! Let me know in the comments below!

Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?

Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!

In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to 

  • Create a Breakfast Rotation
  • Create a Lunch Rotation
  • Create a Snack Rotation
  • Choose Theme Nights
  • Create Rotations for Each Theme Night
  • Fill in Your Meal Planning Calendar

Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!

Plus you will receive the Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook and Spreadsheet and email support from me anytime you have questions.

I hope to see you inside the course!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Meal Planning Resources!)

How to Have an Awesome Meal Olan for the Holidays

Want 7 Extra Hours in Your Week?

Then check out Simply Streamlined!

In Simply Streamlined, you will learn how to 

  • Declutter Your Home
  • Put Effective Routines in Place
  • Create a Set-It-and-Forget-It Meal Plan
  • Get Your Finances Under Control

Simply Streamlined walks you through exactly how to Completely Streamline Your Home in just 15 Minutes a Day!

Plus you will receive

  • Cluttered to Calm Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
  • Put Your Home on Autopilot Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
  • Set-It-and-Forget-It Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
  • Master Your Money Lessons, Workbooks, and Spreadsheets
  • AND Weekly Live Coaching Calls!

I hope to see you inside the program!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Streamlining Resources!)

Want 7 Extra Hours Every Week? Grab the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide!

You May Also Enjoy…

If you’d like to set up your own weekly theme nights, check out The Secret to Meal Planning for the Absolute Beginner | Plus 50 Theme Night Ideas for Your Meal Plan.

If you want a step-by-step guide for setting up your meal plan, check out How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start.

For ideas about how to eat everything you buy, read How to Work Leftovers into Your Meal Plan.

If you want to learn more about Decision Fatigue, check out Why Is Meal Planning so Difficult.

For Quick, Healthy Breakfast Ideas, read How to Get Started Planning Quick Healthy Breakfasts.

See you on the next one! Kassy
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How to Have an Awesome Meal Plan for the Holidays When you are having company.
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How to Have An Awesome Meal Plan for the Holidays
How to Create the Perfect Camping Meal Plan

How to Create the Perfect Camping Meal Plan

How to Make an Easy Camping Meal Plan

One of our family’s favorite summer activities is camping.

As soon as the days start to get longer the girls start asking to camp in the backyard and wondering when our first camping weekend will be.

I love sitting around the campfire, unplugging, and enjoying quality time with friends and family without distractions… but my favorite part of camping is the food!

Every since I was little, camping food just seemed to taste better than everyday food.

But when I became an adult, deciding what to make for our camping weekends was just one more decision to make. Every time we went, I had to take a bunch of time figuring out our menu.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I’m all about making life easy, and I decided to do the same thing with my camping meal plan.

So in this post, I’m going to show you how to create the perfect camping meal plan the easy way… whether you are going camping by yourself or with a group of friends!

First, we’ll go over how to make a great meal plan when you are camping with just your family.

How to Plan the Perfect Family Camping Meal Plan

1) Create a Master List

One of the challenges with Meal Planning is starting from square one every time you sit down to do it.

So the first thing that I did to make camping meal planning easier was to create a Master List of my go-to camping meals.

If you are a spreadsheet junkie like I am, an excel spreadsheet or Google spreadsheet works really well for keeping everything organized (in the Set-It-and-Forget-It Google Spreadsheet, I have a tab for your camping meal plan already made for you!).

If you are more of a pen and paper kind of gal, grab a notebook.

No matter where you keep your list, I find it saves a huge amount of time having all of my options in one place.

2) Write Down Your Go-To Meals

If you are using a spreadsheet, I like to have one column for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. Then I list our favorite meals in each column.

Breakfast

Our favorite camping breakfasts are oatmeal, eggs and hash browns, pancakes, and granola.

Lunch

Often, we don’t eat big lunches when we are camping because we like to sleep in, drink tea around the fire, then make breakfast whenever we feel like it.

If we do get up and get going early, we typically are going on a hike and need food that we can easily eat on the trail.

So for lunches, we will bring several options for sandwiches and easy snacks like larabars, veggies, fruit, and chips.

Dinner

Dinner is my favorite time when camping! This is when we usually do our largest, most involved meals.

Our favorite camping dinners include hobo stews, hot dogs, walking tacos, and grilled sandwiches over the fire.

3) Pull Meals From the Master List

Now when it’s time to go camping all you need to do is to go to your master list and grab however many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you need for your camping trip!

If you still have a hard time deciding, let your kids or spouse choose from the list!

4) Come up with a Go-To Menu

If you camp a lot and don’t want to have to decide on your meals every time, create a go-to full-weekend meal plan and write down the grocery list that you will need for the weekend as well.

Then when you are in a rush and don’t have time to decide what you want to make… just use this meal plan and grocery list and head to the store!

How to Create a Meal Plan When Camping With Friends

1) Assign Meals

We love camping with friends. But one of the challenges is how to coordinate meals so that you don’t end up bringing too much food, while also making sure that everyone contributes.

We’ve tried everything from assigning different ingredient lists to different families to assigning meals to each family…

And hands down, the best way to coordinate is to assign meals.

Here’s an example of how we are doing this for a camping trip we are taking in a couple of weeks:

Three families are going camping together for a Friday night through Sunday camping trip.

One family is making both of the breakfasts.

One family is taking care of lunch and campfire snacks.

(Since we usually eat light lunches when we are camping, we combined the light lunches with the campfire snacks and s’mores for one family.)

And our family is taking care of the two dinners. We usually pack up and get home before dinner on Sunday, so we will only plan for dinner on Friday night and Saturday night.

We’ve also found it helpful to have whatever family is in charge of the meal to be responsible for having everything they need to cook their meal.

So if, for example, someone wanted to make pancakes. They either need to bring a camping stove and spatulas, or they need to touch base with the other families to see if anyone else is bringing theirs.

This keeps everyone from making emergency trips to town to grab a cooking utensil!

2) Pull From The Master List

Now that you know which meals you are in charge of, just go back to your master list of meals and choose from your options on the list!

Now that you have that master list, meal planning for your camping trips will be a whole lot easier!

Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?

Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!

In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to 

  • Create a Breakfast Rotation
  • Create a Lunch Rotation
  • Create a Snack Rotation
  • Choose Theme Nights
  • Create Rotations for Each Theme Night
  • Fill in Your Meal Planning Calendar

Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!

Plus you will receive the Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook and Spreadsheet and email support from me anytime you have questions.

I hope to see you inside the course!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Meal Planning Resources!

Want 7 Extra Hours Every Week? Grab the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide!

You May Also Enjoy

How to Create a Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Plan With Theme Nights, How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start, and How to Start Meal Planning With Quick, Healthy Breakfasts!

See you on the next one! Kassy
How to Make the Perfect Meal Plan for your next Camping Trip
How to Create a Meal Plan for your next Camping Trip
Create a Perfect Camping Meal Plan in 5 Easy Steps
How to Plan Your Meals When You Are Camping With Friends
The Secret to Meal Planning for the Absolute Beginner | Plus 50 Theme Night Ideas for Your Meal Plan

The Secret to Meal Planning for the Absolute Beginner | Plus 50 Theme Night Ideas for Your Meal Plan

Meal Planning didn’t come easily for me.

I tried everything. But every time I sat down to plan my weekly meals I felt like I had such a huge task ahead of me because it took forever to make the plan.

Every time I would tell myself that I was going to choose the meals quickly this time… but it never worked.

I tried looking through my cookbooks. But everything looked good, and I couldn’t decide.

I tried scrolling through Pinterest. But I would find myself still scrolling much later with hardly any progress made.

I would try meal planning at the grocery store. Buying food that sounded good, looked good, or for just in case I felt like making it. But we ended up spending so much money because we never felt like eating the “just in case” food… so it would go to live in the back of the pantry… forever.

I tried giving up and just asking Ross what he wanted for dinner. He would always answer “lasagna” AKA my least favorite food to make or eat…

The Biggest Meal Planning Secret for Busy Moms: One Little Trick Changed the way I Meal Plan
Then one day I thought of a different plan.

We had been married for 5 years and had a new baby. Meal planning hadn’t become any easier for me, but now I had new motivation to figure this out.

I wanted my daughter to grow up remembering special meals that we ate together, instead of me throwing together the most convenient food every night.

I wanted her to remember that we had fun cooking together, instead of me staring into the pantry and fridge for inspiration only to decide on the quickest thing.

And I wanted her to learn to eat new food willingly, instead of being stuck in a food rut because we only ate the same 3 meals all the time.

So I decided to figure out if there was a way that I could meal plan without having to meal plan all the time… and it turned out that there was!

My first plan of attack was to choose meals for my entire year. That way all I would have to do is make a grocery list every week.

I know, I know, I’m kind of crazy! Who thinks that if they don’t enjoy doing something, they should do a whole bunch of it to see if they like it any better?

But as I sat down to plan my meals for the next year, I stumbled upon the greatest Meal Planning Hack of all time!

I knew that I needed to organize my meal planning in some way to make this more efficient, so I decided to assign each day a Theme. And to my surprise, it worked!

(If you’d like to see a full breakdown of the crazy way that I meal plan, check out this post!)

How it Works

When you meal plan with theme nights, all you have to do is pick one theme for each night of the week.

Technically you could choose 14 and have a bi-weekly rotation, but if you want to meal plan for a longer-term, I suggest choosing only 7. It’s just easier to keep track of!

Then when you plan your meals, all you have to do is choose a meal that corresponds to that theme.

So, for example, if I chose to have a Thai Food Night on Thursday, then every Thursday of the year I would choose a Thai meal for that night.

Why It Works

One of the main reasons that we struggle with meal planning as moms is the decision fatigue that we have from making decisions for ourselves and our families all. day. long.

When you meal plan with theme nights, it reduces the amount of choices that you have to make.

Instead of having every meal that has ever been invented as an option, you have narrowed down the type of meals that you are searching for.

So if we had that Thai Theme Night on Thursday, we would look through our cookbooks or on Pinterest for Thai Food. Then for each dish that looked good, we would simply put it on the calendar on any Thursday that we wanted to.

This also solves another common problem with Meal Planning.

Often the reason that we can’t decide on a dish is that they all look so good.

When you meal plan with theme nights, it’s ok if you want to make them all!

Just keep writing different meals in your calendar on the right day of the week.

How to Start

To start meal planning with theme nights, just pick 7 theme nights for your week!

To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of 50 theme night ideas for you!

And if you prefer to watch instead of read, check out this video!

50 Theme Night Ideas for Your Meal Plan

I’ve broken down the theme nights into categories so you can easily sort through them.

You can choose 7 theme nights from one category, or you can choose one from each category. There is no right or wrong way to do this!

The only suggestion that I’ll make is that you have a Leftover Night on your calendar every week, or at least some plan for how to eat your leftovers. But you can check out this post for more ideas on that!

Specific Meal Theme Nights

This type of theme night is when you choose one specific meal that you’ll make every single week. We use this type of theme night for Tuesday nights in our house.

Every Tuesday, we eat our homemade, vegan macaroni and cheese.

Why do we do the same exact meal every Tuesday night? Because my oldest daughter has swimming lessons on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so I know that I need easy meals on those nights.

Pro Tip: Be sure to look at your Weekly Routine when you are choosing your theme nights!

Macaroni and Cheese was an easy choice for our Tuesday Night Theme because it’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s healthy, and our whole family loves it.

When I was growing up, my aunt made Tacos every Friday night. I loved it because I knew that if we went to visit them for a weekend, I’d be getting some delicious tacos, and I knew exactly when I’d be getting them!

Here are some Specific Meal ideas to get you started:

  1. Macaroni and Cheese
  2. Tacos
  3. Burgers
  4. Tater Tot Casserole
  5. Green Curry
  6. Daal
  7. Lentil Soup
The Secret to Meal Planning for the Absolute Beginner!

Variety Meal Theme Nights

In this type of theme night, you use the same base of the meal, but can change anything else about it.

For example, you could have a pasta night. The only thing that stays the same about pasta night from week to week is that it has pasta in the meal.

One way that you could customize a pasta night is by changing the type of pasta that you use. For one pasta night you could use spaghetti, another elbow macaroni, another bow ties, another pinwheels, another pappardelle… you get the idea.

Or you could customize a pasta night by changing the type of sauce that you use. You could have pasta with red sauce, with pesto sauce, with alfredo sauce… and so on.

Here are few Variety Theme Night ideas for you:

  1. Pasta Night
  2. Casserole Night
  3. Sandwich Night
  4. Soup Night
  5. Pizza Night
  6. Salad Night
  7. Potato Night
  8. Rice Night
  9. Taco Night
  10. Curry Night
  11. Cold Cereal Night (Another One of Ross’s favorites!)

Category Theme Nights

For the category theme nights, the genre of the food stays the same, but the base can change.

The example that we talked about in the into, Thai food on Thursday nights, is an example of this type of meal planning.

And within the theme of eating Thai food on Thursday nights, there can be a log of variety. You could have Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Red Curry, Yellow Curry, Green Curry, Pineapple Curry, Pumpkin Curry, Curry Noodles, Thai Basil Stir Fry… you get the idea!

Here are some Category Theme Night ideas to get you started:

  1. Thai Food Night
  2. Italian Food Night
  3. Asian Food Night
  4. Indian Food Night
  5. American Food Night
  6. Ethnic Food Night
  7. Comfort Food Night
  8. Fried Food Night
  9. Build-It Meals
  10. Breakfast for Dinner
  11. Picnic Food Night
  12. Dips and Crackers/Chips
How Weekly Theme Nights Revolutionized My Meal Planning: How to Meal Plan Smarter and Faster!

Different Protein Nights

If we did a specific protein night at our house, we would have a tofu, tempeh, or beans night. But you could also do this with meat.

With this type of theme night, the only thing that stays the same is the type of protein you choose to make.

Here are a few Protein Night Ideas:

  1. Tofu Night
  2. Tempeh Night
  3. Beans Night
  4. Chicken Night
  5. Beef Night
  6. Seafood Night

Seasonal Theme Nights

You may want to have 1- 3 nights of the week that change with the seasons (I wouldn’t recommend more than 3 nights for simplicity’s sake).

On these nights, you would choose one type of meals for spring (maybe salads) a different type for summer (like grilling), something different for Autumn (like soups) and something different for winter (possibly casseroles).

Seasonal Theme Night Ideas:

  1. Tailgate Food
  2. Grilling Food
  3. Fair Food
  4. Picnic Food
  5. Soup Night
  6. Salad Night
  7. Sandwich Night

New Meal Night

We are foodies in our family. We enjoy talking about food, eating food, and trying new food.

My two-year-old usually asks me what we are having for supper several times throughout the day.

Because of this, I make a new meal every Wednesday night.

I think it’s great for kids to be used to trying new things… and it gives me a chance to try those recipes I’ve been wanting to!

Here are some New Meal Theme Night Ideas for you:

  1. New Meal from Pinterest
  2. New Meal from Cookbooks
  3. New Restaurant Night
  4. New Type of Food Night
  5. New Meal at your Favorite Restaurant Night

No-Cooking Nights

Everyone needs a night off! In my house, this is Leftovers Night on Thursdays.

If your family likes to eat out, write on the calendar which night you will go out to eat. It will be easier to cook at home more if you know that you get to go out on a specific night every week.

If you tend to grab fast food so much that it is hurting your budget, choose one fast food night a week and stick to it!

  1. Leftover Night
  2. Out To Eat Night
  3. Take Out Night
  4. Fast Food Night
How to Meal Plan Like a Boss. How one trick will help you plan your meals smarter and faster!

Family Choice Nights

There are several ways that you can do a family choice night. You can either have it be a family favorite, or you could assign a night of the week to a specific person.

If I had a “Ross’s Favorite Night” at our house, he would probably choose lasagna a lot mixed in with some Breakfast for Dinner Options and a few Cold Cereal for Dinner Nights. (Sorry, Ross, I’ll try to cook more lasagna!)

But this can be a fun way to get your children involved in the meal planning too! Give each child a night of the week, and every week they get to pick the meal for that night.

  1. Family Favorites
  2. Mom’s Choice Night
  3. Dad’s Choice Night
  4. Kid’s Choice Night
  5. Grandma’s Best Recipes

Snack Food Theme Nights

We do snack food nights on Saturday nights at our house because we usually eat a large, late lunch so we aren’t in the mood for a big dinner. Plus snack food pairs great with the play board games we like to play together on Saturday nights.

If your family has a game night or a movie night every week, this is a great meal with easy set up and clean up!

  1. Snack Food Night
  2. Chips/Crackers and Dips
  3. Popcorn and Smoothies
  4. Cold Cereal Night

Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?

Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!

In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to 

  • Create a Breakfast Rotation
  • Create a Lunch Rotation
  • Create a Snack Rotation
  • Choose Theme Nights
  • Create Rotations for Each Theme Night
  • Fill in Your Meal Planning Calendar

Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!

Plus you will receive the Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Workbook and Spreadsheet and email support from me anytime you have questions.

I hope to see you inside the course!

(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Meal Planning Resources!)

Want 7 Extra Hours Every Week? Get the Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide!

You May Also Enjoy…

If you want a step-by-step guide for setting up your meal plan, check out How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start.

For ideas about how to eat everything you buy, read How to Work Leftovers into Your Meal Plan.

If you want to learn more about Dicision Fatigue, check out Why Is Meal Planning so Difficult.

For Quick, Healthy Breakfast Ideas, read How to Get Started Planning Quick Healthy Breakfasts.

And if you want to see how I plan my meals, check out The Crazy Way I Meal Plan!

See you on the next one! Kassy
The Best Way to Meal Plan for Busy Moms
The Biggest Secret for Easy Meal Planning
The Most Simple Way to Meal Plan for Overwhelmed Moms
Why Busy Moms should use Theme Nights When Meal Planning
Discover the only way to Meal Plan that Anyone can stick with!
Why Every Mom Should Use Theme Nights When Meal Planning