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Can you believe that July’s already half over? Seriously, where does the time go? Each July, I spend time revamping our yearly schedule and plans. This weekend, I tackled the annual meal plan.
How an Annual Meal Plan Helps My Freelancing
As I shared in this post, annual meal plans free up a ton of time. I’m no longer spending time each day trying to figure out what’s for dinner.
The kids are no longer asking me what we’ll be eating. Everyone just knows.
I only need to make one master shopping list, and then I’m done. For the year.
That’s a huge time saver! And money saver since I can stock up on what we’ll actually be using.
It also frees up brain space. I can only make so many decisions each day, and thanks to my annual meal plan, food doesn’t have to be one of those decisions!
The Updated Menu
Since many of my readers have expressed interest in my annual meal planning concept, I wanted to take time to share my updated version:
Each day of the week is assigned to a child. That child gets to pick what we eat for all meals on that day.
We eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snack each week. Dinners are picked by theme, and I rotate between meals in that theme to add a bit more variety.
Sunday is a bit different. Because of our church schedule, I plan our big meal for lunch. It’s almost always cooked in my Dutch oven while we’re gone, though I’ll occasionally use a crock-pot.
You’ll notice I didn’t list out the fruits and veggies that we have to accompany each meal. That’s because I purchase those from Bountiful Baskets and never know what I’ll be getting. I’ve found fruit and veggie based sides are super simple to prepare and don’t take much thought so it works out.
Here’s a look at the meals I’ll be mainly rotating through for each dinner theme. I based my shopping list on these recipes.
Roast Meat & Veggies:
Grilled cheese & Clam chowder
Fresh bread & turkey Noodle
Tuna Sandwich & potato soup
Toasted Ham & Cheese with green salad
Egg fried rice
Sausage rice bowl (the recipe calls for ground beef, but we prefer ground sausage!)
Orange chicken & rice
Lo-mein noodles & cashew chicken
Sweet & sour chicken over rice
Tacos (soft or hard)
Turkey Taco salad
Spaghetti & meatballs
Turkey fettuccine Alfredo
Baked fish & baked potatoes
Crab sandwich (crab mixed with mayo, celery, and seasoning on top of French bread, topped with cheese–so delicious!)
Fish sticks & fries
Salmon patties with quinoa
Cheeseburgers & tater tots
Meatloaf & mashed potatoes
Biscuits & gravy
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy
Making Meals Coordinate
Since saving time and sanity is the name of my annual meal plan, it only made sense to coordinate some of my meals. This allows me to cook once and eat multiple times.
I especially do this with meat!
For instance, I’m planning on cooking a turkey each month this year. That’ll give me plenty of cooked meat to use in:
- pasta dishes
- taco salad
Since I need several pounds of hamburger each month, I can cook this in bulk and freeze it in family sized portions.
When we have biscuits and gravy for American night one Saturday, I’ll cook extra sausage. I’ll keep this in the fridge, and plan on doing sausage rice bowls the following Tuesday for Asian night.
These tasks don’t add a ton of time initially, and they save a ton when it comes to getting dinner on the table quickly.
Some New Additions to the Menu
Most of our dinner themes stayed the same this year. The kids really enjoy several of our family favorites in these categories.
But, my seven year old son threw in a new one. He wanted sandwiches for dinner on his night.
I told him that sandwiches alone don’t really make a filling dinner, so he agreed to expand it to soup, salad, and sandwiches. We may not have all three every week, but we’ll get a nice variety!
Except I’ve always avoided soup night in the past. It’s really hard to feed soup to someone, which makes feeding my disabled son a bit of a challenge. But, I think by using crackers as a thickener, or using a straw we can make it work.
The seven year old also wanted toast for breakfast. That means I need to make sure and make bread on either Saturday or Sunday. I’m planning on making several loaves at a time and freezing it so I only have to bake it a couple times each month.
We’ve also added in nacho night for Sunday suppers. We needed something quick that wasn’t too messy. Nachos won.
How do you meal plan?
I’d love for you to share your meal planning tactics in the comments below.
Do you have any questions about my strategy?
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.