I love to cook! Chopping up fresh ingredients while listening to a good book or show is relaxing and the smells of a home cooked meal makes me happy! However, with this last baby, some picky eaters and let's face it dishes, my enthusiasm and time to cook great meals has really diminished. So this blog post is as much for me as it is for you! It's time to put meal planning back on the list.
A couple of questions to consider when doing meal planning. What do I already know how to make? What will my kids eat? What types of food do we like? How much time do I have to prepare meals? What kinds of food do I want to learn how to make? These are all important questions to ask yourself.
Below are a couple of steps and explanations to make meal planning easier!
Write down a list of all of the food that you already know how to make. Your "Go To's"
If you're like me it is 4 o'clock, you're starving, your kids are pulling at you and ideas for dinner aren't really flowing. "Top Romen it is!" Hey, if you throw and egg in there it's totally healthy!... At least this is how it goes at my house when I don't have a meal plan!
Having this reference of all the meals you already know is a life saver when you're planning your meals for that week or if you need a quick idea for that day of something to make for dinner. Also, if you are trying to eat healthier you are more likely to be successful when you have already thought of healthy meal options in advance.
So if you don't do anything else, at least do this step!
Assign a different type of food for each day of the week.
I learned this tip form the, "Food Nanny". It might seem over the top, but it makes meal planning less complicated and overwhelming. It also provides variety & balance to the foods you eat each week.
For our family it looks something like this:
Sunday- Crock Pot
Tuesday-Mexican Food (Taco Tuesday)
Thursday-Fish or breakfast
Saturday-On the grill
When planning your meals types be realistic with your schedule and daily life. If you notice on my schedule I have Crock pot meals for Sunday. Who doesn't love coming home from church to the smells of a delicious roast, carrots and potatoes or something like that for Sunday dinner? Also, it is nice to relax and let the crock pot do all of the work instead of spending all of Sunday cooking and cleaning up a bunch of dishes. One other great thing about doing a crock pot meal on Sunday it that there are usually left overs. I usually eat the left overs for lunch or send them with my husband during the next week. Yay! saving time and money and it's only the beginning of the week.
On Monday we have sports and family night so there isn't a lot of time for dinner. Pasta is an easy solution! It makes for great left overs for the rest of the week and it's easy.
I chose Mexican food on Tuesday simply because it was easy to remember and fun to say, "Taco Tuesday" and we love Mexican food!
Wednesday I usually have a little bit more time to try out a new recipe. I really enjoy cooking and want to develop this interest further by trying new recipes. If you have a day in the week that would allow you more time to try out a new recipe do it!. It makes cooking more enjoyable and fun.
Near then end of my week my enthusiasm for cooking usually fades. I know this about myself, so I try to plan things that are easy and I know my kids will love. We usually do pizza or mac & cheese for Friday night, because that it our date night and we want to make things as easy as possible for our babysitter.
On Saturday we are usually outside and my husbands takes over dinner on the Grill.
Think about your week and figure out what will work best for your family!
Put this categorized list somewhere you can see it. I added mine to my kids activity schedule, so I don't forget it.
Each week or every 2 weeks take the time during your weekly planning session to plan your meals. While you're planning, write a list of all of the items that you will need for those meals. You will save a lot of time and money!
Actually cook the food you planned! I have to say as much as I love lists, I am not always disciplined enough to stick to it! What I have found is that life happens and somehow all of the time you thought you were going to have to make dinner was lost in kids activities or watching the lastest, "When calls the Heart" episode. But that is Ok! Choose a different meal that you planned for that week that won't take as much time. You don't have to cook the exact meal you planned to make that day. Be flexible! The most important thing is that you have created a lot of options for yourself in planning so many different meals that you could make that week!