One of the most beautiful things about meal planning is the mental space it frees up. No longer do you have to ponder every day what you are going to make. You just put in an hour or two every couple of weeks and Voíla! a meal plan for days. If that type of meal planning doesn’t work well for you, then try out meal planning by the day instead.
Previously I shared about how to reverse meal plan by shopping sale items and using the food you already have on hand. This type of meal planning might be a stretch for you if you are used to shopping for whatever strikes your fancy. It will also take some time for you to build up your pantry and freezer as you stock up during sales.
What is Meal Planning by the Day?
Meal planning by the day offers a little more structure than reverse meal planning. Meal planning by the day is where you pick a food theme for each day of the week.
This may sound boring at first but really it allows for lots of creativity and variety. Meal planning like this only accounts for the main dish. You’ll want to have your family’s favorite sides on hand at all times so you can pair them with whatever meal deems appropriate.
With this type of meal planning, you’ll want to consider how to use (or freeze) any leftovers if you don’t have a large family.
Read More: How to Organize Your Fridge
Food Prep for Meal Planning by the Day
If you like to do all your food prepping at once, this type of meal planning is perfect for you. You can always have lettuce chopped and ready to go for side salads or Mexican day. Meat can be pulled out the day before so you’re ready to roll the day of. And sides are easy to repeat for your family because you aren’t repeating main dishes that often.
Let’s do an example.
Monday – Meat Day
Tuesday – Mexican Day
Wednesday – Pasta Day
Thursday – Cookout Day
Friday – Fish
Saturday – Pizza
Sunday – leftovers, free-for-all
Now let’s break down each day:
Meat day would be any large cut of meat you prepare (usually in a crockpot) for a more fancy meal. It could be beef roast, pork roast, or a whole chicken. (This is my favorite whole chicken recipe!) Having this meal at the beginning of the week will allow you to use any leftovers in subsequent meals if, like me, you have a smaller family.
Mexican day can be any type of taco using your meat from the night before or browning burger. Quesadillas, burritos, tacos and fried rice are all great starters for Mexican meals.
Pasta day is any meal with pasta as a base. Spaghetti, chicken alfredo, beef stroganoff, tettrazini and lasagne. You get the point, we can all come up with delicious pasta dishes. And as you would any other time, alter the meals to fit your family’s dietary needs. If you are gluten-free, this will still work with whatever type of “pasta” you put your sauce on.
Cookout day is any type of food you would have for a cookout. We like burgers and brats the best. Steak is a delicious treat and hot dogs are a fun meal for the whole family, too. Make the sides as fancy (homemade mac n cheese) or simple (potato chips and veggie tray) as you like!
Fish day is self-explanatory. Cooked salmon, broiled fish filets, salmon patties, tuna melts and shrimp are all fun ideas for fish day.
Who doesn’t like pizza? Pizza day at our house is on Saturdays and I like to switch up flavors. I make traditional sausage and pepperoni, chicken alfredo, BBQ chicken and chicken bacon ranch. That’s just what my family likes, but there are so many more options out there for pizzas. Switch it up sometimes and let your kids make their own pizza with personal sized crusts.
Grilled sandwich day
Read More: Breakfast Quiche Recipe
Meal Planning by the Day for Breakfast
At our house, we have two meals a day that I have to plan: breakfast and supper. Lunch is just leftovers.
For breakfast, my husband came up with this system that I love. “T” days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) I make something with syrup. Every Tuesday I make pancakes and every Thursday I make French toast. We keep it the same for simplicity sake.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday I make some sort of eggs and hash browns and toast. Saturday is up for grabs. Sometimes I do waffles and sometimes I do a breakfast bake of some sort.
Sides for Meal Planning by the Day
Don’t make sides too complicated. Salad is an easy go-to or a slice of butter bread for those kiddos with bottomless pits. Keep some frozen or canned green beans, broccoli and corn on hand at all times for quick options.
Depending how fancy you want to get, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are a hit any time.
Want to do all your meal prepping ahead? Offer a fresh veggie tray or salad with every dinner. Dessert can be applesauce or fresh fruit. You can make this type of meal planning as simple or as fancy as you want!
Organizing Your Meal Plan by the Day
Keep your theme days written on a calendar or white board so the whole family can see it and you won’t have to be incessantly bothered with “What’s for supper, Mom?” The themed days gives them somewhat of an answer but gives you freedom to change your mind last minute if needed.
Write down your specific meals in your planner or on a notecard for the week so you have something to reference and know how to plan.
This type of meal planning narrows down the recipe selection for each day so you’re not left randomly flipping through seven cookbooks for a recipe. Also, this helps you to know what to always have on hand. Tortillas for Mexican, pasta, and a bag of burger and brat buns always in the freezer.
I encourage you to still shop the fliers so you get the best prices, but at least you will be more streamlined in your shopping because you know the basics you always need to have on hand.
Now go try meal planning by the day to see how it can save your sanity with structure, but still give you freedom to choose recipes!