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Meal Planning for 2021

I’m a pretty diligent meal planner, but I haven’t always used the same planning tools over the years. For many years, I went old school by using a spiral notebook to plan out meals for the week. It wasn’t the most efficient method, but it was convenient because I could scribble a grocery list on the margin and shove the notebook in my purse for shopping. I’ve tried creating cutesy templates on Notability, printing, laminating, and using a dry erase marker weekly so the meals were visibly-posted on the fridge. In 2021, I’m going to be using Google Sheets for my family meal plans.

I switched to Google Sheets because this way, I can share the document with Andy and he can have input for family meals if he chooses to. Also, there are numerous meals that I use on rotation. This helps figure out when was the last time I made it. I prefer variety with my meal plan when I have time to prepare them.

As part of our wellness resolutions, for dinners, Andy and I are going to have four nights featuring white meat (fish, chicken, or turkey), two nights featuring red meat (beef, pork, lamb), and one meatless night. For lunches, we’re rotating stuffed potatoes, sandwiches, or soups and salads. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day because it gives me the energy to get started. I’m the type of person who feels physically ill if I skip meals, especially breakfast. With breakfasts, I typically rotate variations of oatmeal, eggs, dairy with fruit, and pancakes.

Back when I worked full time, I did not have the time to prepare this kind of variety for our meals. An even more diligent meal planner, I would devote Sundays to meal prepping for the week, often storing completed meals in the freezer for reheating throughout the week. For breakfast, for instance, I would assembly-line overnight oats in mason jars for every day of the week, mixing up Greek yogurt and rolled oats with flavor combinations like almond-berries, cinnamon apple-walnut, or pumpkin-pecan. For lunches, it was typically an assembly line mason jar salads for Monday through Wednesday, and soups in ready-to-go containers in the freezer for Thursday and Friday. I’d vary the salads, like chicken Cobb or taco salad each week, but whatever it was, they repeated meals for the sake of ease for the busy-ness of the week to come.

Using Google Sheets, I have one tab per month. I add rows for Maggie's meals since hers are keto. Starting with the second column, I list days of the week. I’ll fill in family dinners first, then similar keto variations for Maggie, then breakfasts, then lunches, and finally snacks for Maggie. As I select meals, I use the last column to jot down groceries. I’m the type of person who likes to have a fully stocked pantry and deep freezer so usually, this list consists of perishables like dairy and fresh produce.

For recipe ideas, I have a collection of cookbooks that I peruse for ideas. For Christmas, I received Jennifer Segal’s Once Upon a Chef. I’ve read her blog for years and her recipes are always a hit at our dinner table. The recipes labeled (OUAC) come from that book. Another book that I am heavily reliant on for meal planning is The Keto Cookbook by Dawn Marie Martenz and Laura Cramp, RD. This book was created by another parent of a child with a seizure disorder with a medical dietitian so these recipes are kid-friendly while abiding by the 4:1 keto ratio which is what Maggie is prescribed. Other apps and websites I’ll frequently browse for ideas when I feel like we’re getting into a meal-time rut are The Food Network, Epicurious, Pinterest, and cooking magazines.

So far, this has worked well for our family. I hope that these suggestions help you and your family with meal planning.


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