It’s that time of year again! Summer is slowing coming to an end and it’s time to get our kids back on a schedule. I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the lazy days of summer where dinner could be plopped on the table well after my kids’ normal bedtime. It’s been fun eating out and not worrying about the nutritional value of the things I’m feeding my kids. But alas, all good things must come to an end. The time has come to start planning my family’s meals.
I have been asked many times how to start meal planning. Well, fear not meal planning newbies, I am here to help. There are many benefits to meal planning, especially when you can refer inquisitive eaters to a list on the fridge, a white board, a bulletin board, or if you’re fancy, a chalkboard. Any way you write it down, it’ll cut down on a lot of questions. Believe it or not, my kids look forward to dinner when they know what they’re eating. So let’s get started on planning your meals!
“Mommy what’s for dinner? I’m hungry.” “Honey, do you have any idea of what’s for dinner? I was so busy today that I skipped lunch.” These my friends are the dreaded, “What’s for dinner questions” that EVERY mom and wife gets asked almost every night. Just thinking about it makes me nervous. There have been plenty of nights when 5 o’clock rolls around and I am looking into the refrigerator wondering what kind of culinary masterpiece I can create in the next 30 minutes. Cue Rachel Ray and her 30 Minute Meal show, without all the fancy ingredients because let’s be honest, who buys anchovy paste at the store on a regular basis?
Every Friday evening, my husband and I sit down and talk about our next week’s menu. We spend hours (okay maybe 30 minutes) poring over previous recipes that everyone loved and try to put those in our weekly menu. Our menu pretty much becomes the Academy Awards of dinners past.
When you are planning your meals it is very important to know your schedule. We have pizza for dinner every Friday night. It’s our family night, where we wind down from the week and we sit on the couch with the kids, eat pizza and watch movies. It also gives me a break one night a week from cooking. If we decide to make our own pizza (which is a lot more fun for the kids), my husband will usually take over dinner that night.
I save our more time consuming meals for the weekend when my husband is home and can help with the kids while I prepare the meals. Our weekend meals usually involve some sort of fish meal, and a roast, or meatloaf. Our weeknight meals are simple meals. I like to keep our meals down to 3 ingredients and something that can be put together easily (remember those 30 minute meals). On days that the kids have activities and I won’t make it home in time to make a meal and have it done in time for dinner, I use my good ‘ol crockpot (gosh I love that thing). I just throw things in the crock pot and by the time we get home, voila! Dinner’s served.
You know those grocery store ads that you get in the mail every week? Use them! Years ago, I would just throw the ads in the trash (gasp) and be very upset that the mail carrier kept delivering them until I realized that he was actually doing me a favor! Grocery store ads tell you what’s on sale, and what fruits and veggies are in season. Those ads have now become my life saver! I browse the ads and use those to plan our meals. If chicken is on sale, I’ll plan different meals that include chicken. Also, pay attention to the stores that offer double ads. Wednesdays are double ad days and I can get last weeks sales AND the new week’s sales all at the same time! Genius!
Don’t be afraid to move meals around on your list. The meal list is there to be helpful, if you get to Tuesday and you don’t really feel like making those shredded chicken tacos, and you’re in the mood for Thursday’s chili, go for it.
This tip is very important. Don’t feel like you have to have a five star meal every single night for the next week. If you have fine dining on your mind while making your meal plan you might become overwhelmed pretty quickly. Leftovers make a great meal! Don’t be afraid to have grilled cheese sandwiches, bean burritos, on your weekly list. Hey sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It’s okay to have the same meals each week, just move the meals around, no one will notice. Once you get the hang of meal planning you can get as fancy as you’d like.
Planning our family’s meals has been a great help to me as I try to keep a tiny semblance of organization in my life. Do you meal plan for your family? I’d love to hear back from you. Until then, Happy Meal Planning!