As long as I have posted my weekly meal plans, I have noticed a common theme in the comments: “I wish I was this organized.”
Folks, in my world, it’s not about being organized. . . . it’s about staying S-A-N-E.
Ok, so sanity isn’t the only reason I meal plan, but it’s a big part of it.
- Knowing what we’ll eat for dinner each night of the week keeps me from cluelessly staring into the abyss of my pantry each day, while the kidlets scream and run circles around me.
- Just this one “plan” in place keeps me calm during the “witching hour” — that 5 pm hour when the kidlets are lunatics and Hubby is stuck in traffic. I can do what I need to do . . . delegate tasks to the Little Lady . . . and let Mr. Boy chase the dog (a much less noisy option than chasing his sister).
The other reasons I meal plan? I have better control of our food budget and can maintain our healthy living goals when I plan for each meal. When there are weeks I don’t plan (like back in the early days of this pregnancy, when neither my nose nor my energy levels could handle anything in the kitchen), it is sooooooo easy to resort to easy, highly processed, convenience foods and take-out. During unplanned weeks, the amount of money we spend on food goes through the ROOF. . . not to mention Hubby and I both find our digestion systems and energy levels suffer with the processed diet.
Ultimately, it’s all about control for me — control of my sanity, control of our budget, and control over what goes into my family’s bodies. Each of these things is very important to me and I’m willing to spend a few hours on a Saturday to plan a couple of meals.
That being said, I understand that it can be daunting to dip your toes into the meal planning waters. If I was going to offer advice, there are three things I’d tell you . . .
Decide which meals you’re going to plan.
Generally, most of us eat three times a day. But, guess what? No one says you have to plan EVERY meal of the week. . . I certainly don’t. I only plan dinners and Sunday lunch; those are the meals for which our entire family is together so they are the ones on which I focus. Breakfast and lunch? Eh — those are usually just me and the kids and it’s not difficult to whip something up.
If you want to start with just one or two meals a week on your plan, that’s perfect! If planning for weekends only works best for you and your family, then go that route. YOU get to be in control.
Make it easy on YOU.
Just because you plan your meals, doesn’t mean you have to choose gourmet recipes to prepare. Make what you’re comfortable cooking — and what you know you’re family will eat. If you find a new recipe that you’re just dying to try, save it for days/nights when you’ll have more time (and when, if you’re like me, your Hubby will be around to entertain kidlets while you cook).
Consider “theme nights.” My daughter LOVES when we have Taco Tuesday. Other families I know have a “Meatless Monday” or “Pizza Fridays.” With theme nights, it’s easy to create simple, family traditions that don’t have to take up a lot of prep time.
Write or print out your plan and post where both you AND your significant other can see it.
If I’m picking recipes from cookbooks, then my plan is handwritten; but, most of the time, I find recipes online. I have a simple (VERY simple) Word document where I list the days of the week and assign a meal to each day, linking each meal to the original online recipe.
Then . . . I hit print and promptly stick that baby (or my handwritten version if it’s one of those weeks) up on the fridge.
Why the fridge?
1. If I can SEE my plan, I can stick to it!
2. Since I’ve started dabbling in batch cooking and “cook ahead” cooking, seeing my Menu Plan helps me remember to do any necessary prep through out the week . . . such as this week, when I am spending time Monday making Chicken Stock (some of which will end up being used in three of my week’s meals).
3. HUBBY gets to see the plan, then I don’t have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner.” Eliminating that nightly question went a looooooong way toward preserving my sanity. No joke.
Now, What Are We Eating This Week?
Monday — Green Bean Stir-fry, Jasmine Rice, Asian Wonton Dumplings (this meal was from last week but got bumped due to visiting family)
Tuesday — leftovers or sandwiches (my husband has a late night at work so I’m keeping it simple)
Thursday — Pasta with Homemade Pasta Sauce, Garlic Bread
Friday — leftovers
Saturday— Baked Chicken Legs, Homemade Chicken Rice-a-Roni (another recipe from The Everything Beans Book), Green Beans
Sunday — Turkey Hamburger Pizza on homemade dough
If you meal plan, why do YOU do it
and what advice would you offer others?
p.s. For more meal planning ideas/recipes, visit Org Junkie, host of Menu Planning Monday.
(**Quick Post Grocery Shopping Update: the above meal plan only cost $38 at the grocery store! I did not use any coupons. Actually, it would have been less but I bought a couple of snacks and fruit. But . . . STILL! See what menu planning can do for you?)