“Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Do you cringe when you hear that question? I know I do. And it’s especially hard when you have to plan meals during a Coronavirus lockdown when we are trying to avoid exposure in public places.

It is week 5 of our lock down here in Germany and things are getting into a schedule. Of course, we are now somewhat getting used to going to the grocery store only when we really need to. Here in Germany you can’t shop on Sundays because all stores are closed that day. So you have to shop on Saturdays or Mondays. But I realized this lock down didn’t stress me out too much because I have a system in place that I’ve been using for a few years now. Let me share with you how I can plan week’s worth of meals and minimize my time shopping.

Cookbook

I started a 3 ring binder with our favorite recipes in it. I use sheet protectors and slide the paper sheets inside. These sheet protectors not only help me stay organized, but they also protect the paper from getting wet or sticky when I’m cooking.

Organization

The first page of my binder is a list of all our family favorite meals by meat. Just the names not the actual recipes. This gives me a quick glance of dinner ideas that help me plan.

I also have the binder organized by meat category so all the chicken meals can be found in one spot and all the beef, sausage, turkey etc. That way I can find the recipe I need. You could go so far as to alphabetize them, but that is just extra effort. I also have a pocket where I try new recipes and sometimes, they can be dismal failures while others taste really good. Then I add the good ones to the book and put them in my weekly rotation.

You can see examples of my cookbook to the right.

Weekly plan

Each week, I plan out the dinner menu on Saturday mornings when I have a bit more time than during the week. I ask for input from the husband and kids but mostly I just make the decisions. Using the front page of my cookbook, I am able to help quickly come up with dinner ideas. I start a list for each day on a little piece of paper that I can take with me to the store and then post it on the fridge. That way, EVERYONE knows the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

Vary the meals

I vary the meals so that we don’t have chicken meals for 3 days in a row. So I pick a beef, chicken, sausage, maybe a non-meat meal and then repeat. Hence the reason for the categories in my cookbook. You can see an example of my dinner plan for the week below and then flip the paper and you can list the items you need to shop for. By looking at the recipes you can check to see what you have in the pantry and fridge before you head out.

Spontaneity

Now there are times when I am spontaneous at the store and pick up something not on my list especially when it’s on sale. So I may shift my schedule or just freeze it to use for next week. You can make a list for each week and then rotate it every few weeks to help with meal planning. But that’s all there is to it.

 

Shopping List

This is the easiest part once you know your meals. You can now take a look in your pantry and fridge to see what you already have so you don’t buy extra. Some of us are limited on pantry or fridge space so this can be important. Use the recipes in the cookbook to determine the items needed and write them down. Now you are ready to shop!

Down and dirty weekly meal plan

Once you have a list of your family favorite meals, it is easy to rotate the schedule and never have the same meal twice in one week! Here’s the low down and dirty quick way of setting up your own weekly meal plan:

  1. Create a meal cheat sheet with all your favorite family meals
  2. Make a weekly meal plan using your cheat sheet
  3. Write down the ingredients you need to make those meals and shop for your items!