I try to run my house on routines. And when it comes to dinner time, that's no different.
We are a family of 9. And yes I do struggle. Having 7 kids is overwhelming at times. Chaos runs rampant in this house if we don't stick to routines and if dinner isn't served by 5, mommy stress kicks in.
I like to keep a running list of our favorite dinners and plan around those. I always like to try something new at least once a month so I usually search Pinterest!
I plan out an entire month of dinners. I know that seems a little crazy, but I like easy. And trying to figure out dinner on a night when I'm really tired or my kids have an activity or something else just doesn't work out.
I just use a regular spiral bound calendar I bought at Target, maybe $5, that hangs on my fridge. This makes it easy to see and easy for the kids to see too! I don't usually get asked a million times what we are having for dinner this way! And if they do ask, I say food. 🤣
I recently started doing themes for different days of the week. For example, Mondays are breakfast for dinner nights (super simple!), Tuesday is a Mexican food day and Wednesdays just seemed like a good day to have chicken. I grew up loving breakfast for dinner and my kids really enjoy it too!
My meal plan doesn't include sides, but I always have something on hand to go with our dinners. Some of our favorite main dishes include, pastas, nachos, chicken all different ways, barbecued burgers, and plenty of kid friendly picks too.
My kids range in age from 11 to 2 so finding meals that are toddler friendly can be a challenge sometimes. But I am happy to report my son loves all food! I don't think I've found one that he hasn't liked yet. He even loves salad! 🙌
As for my other kids, well that's a whole different story. My twins don't like potatoes... but they like French fries, tater tots, hash browns…. I have a few others that don't like mushrooms, onions, peppers, but my 5 year old daughter loves peppers. Children confuse me! LOL!
I don't cater to their wants either. You eat what is given to you or what you take, or you just don't eat. We have a saying in our house, You get what you get and you don't throw a fit. I cook for 9, which takes a bit of effort and it's not ok to waste food.
How to Get Started
If you are new to meal planning then you are most likely overwhelmed. If I can do it, you can too!
Start by making a general list of your family's favorite meals. Once this list is made, make it so you can add ideas as they come to you. Keep this list somewhere safe or type it up and keep it saved on your desktop for easy access.
Next, pick up a cheap calendar or print one. The Dollar Tree near me has paper calendars!
When I first got started I took my list I had made with my family's input and randomly wrote each on any day on the calendar. Once I was more comfortable with meal planning I designated different days of the week for different types of meals.
By having your meals all written down, it makes it super easy to plan ahead for tomorrow! I can't easily see what needs to be taken out of the freezer the night before.
► I should note, that my meal plan only includes dinners. During the school year my kids eat breakfast and lunch at school. Thus making it so I don't have to plan these out.
However, if your kids are home schooled or just too young to go to school, I would suggest writing breakfast and lunch meals on there as well. You could also simply divide the boxes in threes or even put them all on their own calendar.
Once you have your calendar filled out with all your meals, start planning your grocery trip.
I like to divide my shopping list by what section of the store items are located in. For example, Produce, Dairy, Meat, Frozen, Etc. Then simply go through your calendar day by day until you have written down all your ingredients you will need for the month. Don't forget the sides!!
I'd like to point out that I hand write mine because the one time I actually typed it up my dumb laptop did an update and it got deleted.... It was very frustrating!
► We budget $500 for groceries for the entire month. This includes all meals, plus drinks, etc. I don't usually buy all the bread or fresh produce we need just because it will either go bad before we use it or we just don't have the room. I don't like to freeze bread because it just never tastes the same.
We do have a chest freezer(bought at Costco) in our basement where we store a lot of our meat and veggies(even some we grew ourselves!) and other freezer food.
Our fridge broke shortly after we moved into our rental house and our landlord happily replaced it, but it's tiny!! I'm not sure how he expected me to fill that up to feed 7 kids every month.🤔
If you happen to have this problem of a tiny fridge and nowhere else to store food. Then obviously don't shop for the entire month at one time! You could easily shop by week or every two weeks. Designate a day when you can shop, so you are prepared for the upcoming weeks.
I will usually dedicate an entire day for the grocery haul. I don't like to do this by myself, because I usually end up with 2 carts, but when I do I make it work. It's kinda hard to find a sitter for 7 kids, and there have been a few times I did bring them.. Let's just say that's not the best option.
Be sure to shop from your cupboards and pantry before you ever go to the store. I have pretty good storage in this rental so I usually store a bunch of dry & canned goods in my basement. And there have still been many times I've bought something and didn't need to.
Many people say that $500 isn't nearly enough for a family of 9. I have learned to be extremely frugal over the last few years. I always buy extra of something if it's on sale and it's something we use a lot of. And I also make sure to send the leftovers with my husband the next day for lunch. (I hate leftovers!!)
I'm all about easy when it comes to dinner. I don't want anything that takes me forever to prepare(unless it's a holiday!). Casseroles and crockpot dishes seem to be my favorites when it comes to saving time.
I am in the process of reorganizing and downsizing my entire house. I plan to share the progress as I go. Hoping this doesn't turn into a forever ongoing project! Be sure to sign up for my emails so you don't miss any good organizing tips! ♥
Do you meal plan? How has it benefited your family? Tell me with a comment below!