meal planning

The Meal Planning Matrix: This method saves you time and money on family dinner

This meal planning formula will make your life so much easier.

Dinnertime is a pain point for many families. If you’re not the one preparing it, you’re the one eager to eat. Doing that day in and day out can be a headache. One mom found a solution that works well for her family: once-a-month meal planning!

Jayme Cherry shares her tips for nailing the monthly meal planning matrix. Her formula has saved time, money, and ensures that family dinners actually happen in her home.

To find more of Jayme’s ideas and see her family’s meal plan in action, follow her on Instagram at @thecherrykitchen.


Benefits of Once-a-Month Meal Planning

It saves time vs planning weekly

I’ve found that a month of meals can typically be planned in about an hour using a matrix, which is comparable to the amount of time I had previously been spending to plan meals one week at a time.

It saves money

Monthly meal planning cuts grocery costs because it allows you to pre-purchase items when they’re on sale and allows the option for less frequent trips to the store.

It increases the likelihood that family dinners actually happen

Research has proven that shared meals strengthen relationships among family members, promote stability, teach good eating habits, can curttail weight issues, and can even prevent psychosocial problems in children.


Tips for a Successful Meal Matrix

Use a blank calendar template and consider your family’s schedule when planning meals

This allows you to plan quick and easy meals for busy nights, and special meals for special occasions.

Start your week with soup

 It’s easy to prepare, and a double or triple batch of soup prepared for dinner on Monday can serve as lunch for the rest of the week.

Choose a night to go meatless

It saves money and offers many health benefits. For some people, meatless means seafood; for others, it means meals built around grains, beans, or eggs.

Don’t be afraid to repeat a meal weekly

Taco Tuesdays or Pizza Fridays can become treasured family traditions while also allowing for a relatively stress-free meal each week.

Remember that customizable meals are family-friendly

Kids are more willing to try new foods when they’re presented in unique ways, such as in an at-home salad bar or build-your-own rice bowl.

Plan for a night (or two) of leftovers each week

This can be simply reheating a previously-prepared meal, or re-inventing it as something new (like turning a leftover roast into sheet pan nachos or using it for lettuce wraps, or making hot ham and cheese sandwiches with leftover ham).

Save more complex or time-consuming meals for the weekend

The cooking process is more enjoyable if you have the time to slow down and enjoy it.

Enlist your family to help

If your kids are old enough, allow them to help plan and prepare a few meals during the month. They will learn valuable kitchen skills, enjoy quality time with the parent who helps them, and will be more likely to try foods they’ve helped to cook.

Think outside the box

There are so many themes that you can repeat weekly within a meal matrix: breakfast for dinner, snack dinner, Italian night, Mexican night, sandwich night, etc. Have fun with it!

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