I meal plan 95% of the time. I sit down and decide what I am going to have for dinner every night of the week so that I can create my grocery list and have everything I need (and defrosted) when I need it. Depending on my schedule, some nights I teach or the kids have activities, so it comes down to planning.
Below are some insight into HOW I plan?
What do I have in my pantry?
First question I ask is 'what do I have in my pantry?' I am pretty good about keeping shelves stocked with garbanzo beans, black beans, tomatoes, etc. So, what do I have and do I feel like using the items?
What do I have in my fridge?
Looking at my vegetable drawer, what do I have in the drawer and how can I use it? Brussel sprouts? Bacon? Saute those up to make a simple pasta. Cauliflower, plus garbanzo beans above? Make my fave roasted cauli + garbanzo beans as a side dish to a simple grilled chicken.
What do I feel like making?
Look at the whole of the week. What do I have going on? What does my family have going on? Planning a labor intensive meal on a night when I am teaching, wont work. Maybe that night it is instant pot or leftovers. Be realistic about how you will feel on any given night.
What are some go to recipes?
Some of my go-tos are spaghetti, tacos, brined and baked chicken, salmon with pesto. In the absence of an idea, I know that I always have the ingredients on hand to throw those meals together in a pinch. Keep some of those ideas in your pocket for days where you might be less inspired.
Overall, when it comes to cooking my attitude is almost always 'I want to make this my version because I know what is in it.' Cheesecake bars? Buy them? Nope, let me make them! Honey mustard? Buy it? Nope, let me make it. I always prefer knowing the ingredients that are going into my food so I feel my best every day!