What’s for dinner? It’s an exhausting question. Before getting completely organized, it was a question I asked myself regularly as I sat down to pre-plan. Every night before we sat down to the table, it was a question I received from my husband. Then, my daughter. Lots of times, I’m so tired of thinking about dinner, the very question makes me cringe!
Can’t I just sit down to the table to eat the dinner without thinking about it any longer than the time it takes to plan and make it?
Even though I now have this whole meal planning thing down pat, I still hear the question from my daughter. And I still have to think about it. But, I’ve made meal planning so much easier, with practice, over the course of the last couple years.
I can already hear you saying “but, I don’t know what I want to eat during the week.” Stop yourself right there and throw out that thought. Remind yourself that you’re looking for more time in your life. If you go to the store daily, based on what you’re feeling like for dinner that night, you’re wasting an awful lot of time. If you know you like a particular food or meal, planning it ahead of time doesn’t change your like for it. Maybe you’re not going to be particularly in the mood for it in a couple of days, but you won’t hate it either. The reward of saving time, in my opinion, greatly outweighs having to decide on a meal and shop every day. And, the best thing you can do for keeping up with all the demands of a family is to schedule everything!
1. Get your whole schedule organized
At the very least, create and update a family schedule. In a previous post, I showed you how to best organize your family schedule. This will help you for all your scheduling needs, including meal planning. If you use my post to make your schedule, you’ll be using your calendar app to also include your dinner plans. This will make it so much easier to see the time you have available to determine the best meals for which nights.
Pick one day to do your grocery shopping.
2. Set aside time to plan
Pick a day (or days) and a time that you can dedicate to meal planning. Personally, I like to meal plan a little at a time. After I put the kids to bed at night, I can sit at the computer and spend a few minutes deciding what I want to cook the following week. This works best for me right now, but eventually, I’d love to take 1 morning a week to get it done in one sitting.
Whatever works for you, go for it.
3. Have a weekly theme night!
Pick one night a week for a simple meal that everyone loves. In our house, we have Taco Tuesday. I used to try to mix it up and make different kinds of tacos, but the last time I did chicken tacos, my husband asked “why would you mess with a good thing? No one was complaining.” So, beef tacos it is. Every Tuesday. Look, I won’t complain. I know every week I need at least one package of ground beef and the toppings.
The best chance of success is to decide on something everyone really loves. Other good options may be spaghetti, chicken and yellow rice, or breakfast. Yes, breakfast. You don’t have time for it in the morning, so treat everyone to a big breakfast at night.
4. Gather cookbooks, recipe box, and/or Pinterest
While looking at your schedule, sort through your recipes.
Plan crock pot meals or simple dinners for busy days/nights you have less time available. Reserve your less busy nights or weekend evenings for more labor intensive meals. A whole roasted chicken on Sunday will yield plenty of leftover options, like homemade chicken broth and the pulled chicken for chicken and yellow rice, for your busy nights.
5. Create your shopping list while meal planning
While you’re sitting down selecting your meals, go ahead and create your shopping list. You can check your list for sales and determine if you should double up your purchases on some items. Additionally, you can determine if you can double up on a meal to freeze for an easier night in the future.
Since I currently don’t do my own shopping, I create my shopping list directly in my Shipt app. Once I’m done planning and taking inventory of items I’ll need, I can place my order for groceries anytime I’m ready for them. No matter how you shop, creating a digital list on your phone, using an app like Grocery IQ, is a huge help.
While you’re at it, consider all the things your child will need for lunches for the week and add your item to the list.
6. Cook up double
If you can swing it, plan a double batch of something you can freeze. Cooking a pot of chili? Double the recipe, cook, and freeze half to serve later. I’ve made the meat and veggie base of a shepherd’s pie, doubling the recipe so that I could freeze it. On a busy night (or one I feel particularly lazy), I can thaw this and only have to make the mashed potatoes before baking.
7. Pre-make kids’ lunches for the week
I use Sunday afternoons to go ahead and start working on my daughter’s lunches for the week. Since I have a pretty good routine down, and she eats just about everything, it’s easy for me to cut up vegetables and prepare fruit.
You can read more about my strategy for beating the school morning rush here.
8. Give yourself a night out
I hate cooking. After spending as much time as I do meal planning every week, cooking, and eating it, I’m SO tired of thinking about what I’m making. But, I love food. I generally give myself at least one day a week off from cooking. Build in 1 or 2 nights during the week in which you go out, pick something up, or have something delivered. The best part is, this usually means everyone can have some input on what they’re eating for the night, which is something I don’t build into my meal planning for the week. (I’m a mean mom … if you don’t like what I cook tonight, you don’t have to eat.)
- Saves time – go to the grocery store once for the whole week
- “What’s for dinner?” isn’t a problem question
- May save money
- Allows you to plan according to schedule
- Reduces waste
- Can provide easy freezer meals
- Will keep you from eating less healthy take-out more often
Have any meal planning tips or questions? Let me know!
Did you catch my first post in this series? This is the 2nd post in a 4 week series to help you nail down your schedule and manage your time. It was 5 weeks, but I decided to do something special!
At the end of the 4 weeks, I’m launching a new e-book which will include the 5th topic (and my favorite). Plus, I’m going to include a few free resources that you can’t get here from my posts to supplement some of the stuff I discuss. To celebrate the launch of the e-book, I’m going to give it to my email subscribers for FREE. This will be a temporary freebie until I launch it on Amazon. So, you’ll have first hand experience with the e-book before anyone else does.
If you’re a parent (especially stay at home moms) struggling with time management, you’re going to want this book. But, why pay for it if you can get it free for a limited time? So, go ahead and sign up to receive my newsletter and I’ll notify you when the book is ready for download. Until then, you’ll be sure not to miss the next three posts in this series, so you’ll have a head start when the e-book is released!