Meal planning. It is a stressful event in itself, really. Thinking ahead to what you are doing in any given week and what you’ll have time to cook can sometimes be a daunting task. I’ve tried meal planning so many different ways. I have typed our meals on a printed calendar, written them in my work planner, and even used a dry erase board. I’ve planned out meals for the week, for two weeks, and for a month at a time. I have tried doing one giant shopping trip a month and I have tried one smaller shopping trip a week. I have even planned all of our meals based solely on what was on sale and what coupons I had clipped and ready to go. I have spent countless hours clipping coupons, writing lists, checking Pinterest, and saving ideas that I will never use.
Planning out our meals for the week has become even more important since adding a baby into the mix. Before we had a baby, weekly meals were flexible. I did almost all of the cooking for every meal and it worked out well. That does not fly anymore. Most nights I am unable to do much cooking due to Wesley’s feeding schedule or whether he might need a bath that night, especially after having to work all day. When planning out our meals I have to think to myself, “Ok, Tuesday is bath night this week so I can’t make that big meal that requires more time. Maybe Michael will grill.” Slowly but surely, meal planning has morphed into this easier task that does not require that much time or effort once I really get into it. Here’s how I have adapted our weekly meal planning to save time and sanity.
Plan for components rather than giant meals. By this I mean, choose a few main entrees/proteins and have a few choices for sides. We keep green beans and broccoli in the freezer all the time and a variety of pastas in the pantry. By doing this, I know that we can have grilled chicken and our side can be one of the vegetables that I keep stocked in the freezer. Make use of those 90 second rice packets or other similar items in the freezer section of your grocery store. They have good organic options for many of these items, so “bad processed foods” do not really have to be a concern anymore!
Make use of your phone. I used to sit down and physically write out weekly meals and the shopping list that accompanied them. No more. I barely have time to wash my hair on a regular basis– I certainly don’t have time to write out long grocery lists! I open up the notes feature on my phone and create my list. I grocery shop every Sunday afternoon so my meal list runs Sunday through Saturday.
After I have figured out the meals for the week, I quickly inventory what we need to purchase and add it to the note. Notes on iPhone has a cool “check” feature that allows you to check of items as they’re completed. Super handy and easy to follow as I make my way through the store.
Recycle meals. It is perfectly fine to have certain staple meals that you cycle through. For our family these meals include grilled chicken breast, beef/turkey burgers, ground turkey tacos, spaghetti, and breakfast for dinner. These are our main dinners with a few random things thrown based on what is on sale that week at the grocery store. Choose things that are quick, easy, healthy, and filling.
Cook in bulk and prep meals a little. This is the last tip I have for you. To keep yourself from eating out for lunch or claiming that you do not have anything to eat, throw an extra chicken breast on the grill or cook 2 pounds of meat for tacos. Throw some lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers in a big bowl in the fridge, ready for quick salads with the extra meat that is already cooked!
Meal planning does not have to be stressful or incredibly time consuming. Slowly add in new, easy dinners on days you are not busy or have a Saturday afternoon free. Protein, veggie, carb if you’re feeling fancy. Minimize your time spent preparing dinner so you can maximize your time spent with your family!