I have been meal planning for years and I don't really know any other way anymore. I don't understand how people don't meal plan for the week. I do it to save time and money, take all the guesswork out of "what's for dinner?", make good use of the food I have in the kitchen and to ensure my family has homemade healthy meals to eat.
I don't really like cooking and never really did but I find that if I know what's to be made and have all the ingrediants on hand then it's not such a daunting task. Opening cupboards and waiting for food ingredients to jump out at me doesn't work very well. Quite often one or two items will be missing or stuff that's not used will go bad if a meal plan isn't done.
On Sunday nights I'll quickly scan the cupboards and freezer and try and base some meals on what kinds of meats or canned/dry goods I have already available. Vegetables can be added to almost any meal to prevent spoilage and Ill often "tweak' recipes based on what veggies I have on hand. I only plan for dinners as breakfast is usually one of three things (waffles, toast or cereal) and lunch is usually leftovers or from a set "lunches for the kids" list I have on the fridge. That and I work so I"m not home for most breakfasts and lunches. I find the recipes I"ll be using and move them to the front of my recipe binder than write the shopping list with quantities needed and whether or not I have a coupon for the item. While doing this I also scan the weekly flyers looking for great deals. Monday morning or afternoon my two year old and I head to the store and do the shopping.
This week we're going camping so that's reflected in the meal plan:
1. Shepard's Pie - so many variations of this and I don't follow a recipe. I do the basic protein (usually ground chicken or beef), veggies on top of that (usually frozen corn, peas or green beans) then a mashed potatoe/cauliflower blend and topped with cheese and baked in the oven
2. Mustard Chicken and Summer Squash - from a recipe book and can't find either one
3. Tuna Casserole - another one with wide variation using veggies, cream soup and pasta or egg noodles and topped with cheese then baked
4. Potato Salad - for camping
5. Hot dogs - camping
6. Frozen spaghetti sauce and pasta - a quick camping dinner