Ok, so it’s the end of July. It’s hot, kids are starting to get bored, and moms are getting, well, anxious for school start. Which for us, is about 3 weeks away….so why not think about how to reorganize life when the little “monsters” go back to school?? Yes, we mom’s long for the days when the house is quiet again, and we have the “me time” we seem to have less of during those warm, summer days. But, with those quiet days, come the hectic evening schedules…sports, after school activities, youth group, band practices; all the coming and going from “thing to thing”. And the craziness leaves a lot of moms feeling unorganized around meal time, asking the age old question: “what’s for dinner?” I find that if I don’t plan ahead, have my meals planned out and ingredients bought, we are hitting Chipotle or Panera Bread for dinner, or even ordering pizza. And as yummy as those places are, it shouldn’t be our go to meal during our busy season.
I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. I feel a huge accomplishment in my days when I can cross something off of a list. Lately, I have been making a to do list at the beginning of the week, listing all of my chores, food prep and meals I need to make for the week. I keep it on the counter right next to the coffee pot (the fuel to power my madness). And each day, I cross off a few items, and by the end of the week, my house is clean (well mostly, I’m not superwoman), my meals are made, food is prepped and a relaxing weekend awaits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life worked out so wonderfully? At the mercy of lists?
Meal planning has been one of the legs I stand on in life. It’s helped me learn to just buy only the ingredients I need for those meals and not over spend….okay sometimes (most of the time) I indulge in some kind of chocolate, but that’s neither here nor there. One thing I have found is that, for me, the more simple my meals are, the more likely I am to make them on a regular basis. Rice and beans, for example, is a very simple thing to make, and have in my pantry on a regular basis. Something else that works well for my family, is making meals that I know my kids will eat. Why add the stress of making something for dinner you know your kids will push away and not eat? Now I’m not saying to make a week of chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and pizza for dinner, no sir! But if your kids like, oh spaghetti for example, make a point to keep a back stock of noodles and sauce in your arsenal of food, for those busy nights you need a 10 minute miracle dinner. Make life easy on you, while you are still keeping your kiddos fed with healthy, home cooked meals.
When planning out my meals for the week, I again, make a list! Also, I find what works for me is to plan out meals for the whole month. What?!! I bet you’re thinking I’m crazy, how can I plan out 30 meals ahead of time?? I mean, how much time do I have??? Well, not much, I promise you. But what if I told you I only plan out meals for one week, 7 days, and repeated those meals for the month?? It doesn’t sound so hard now, right? It almost sounds doable… Well, that is how I plan my meals, I figure out a week’s worth of easy, healthy and sometimes fun meals for dinner, and stick to it on a weekly basis for about a month or so, which is usually when we are all sick of them and we are forced to move on!
Now, the only way that this type of meal planning works, is if you pick meals that are easy to make, and most importantly, meals that you enjoy. Dinner becomes very stressful real quick when you have hungry young, kids who refuse to eat what is on their plates. Too many nights have been spent in my house teaching kids to eat what’s on their plates. So I try and cook what I know they will eat, and go from there. Busy ,week night dinners are also not the time to make a 50 step, 20 Ingredient dinner. You will make it once, and cry because you had to cook it while juggling homework, kids arguing, bottom wiping and diaper changing. No way. Save those meals for when your husband is home and he can man the battle station while you cook with ease…and a glass of wine 😝. Busy weeknight meals should consist of 1-2 crockpot OR pressure cooker meals, you know that new contraption that can cook any meal in 3.5 seconds?? Teehee SIDE NOTE: about presssure cookers, who doesn’t think of the scene from Back to the Future II, when the future McFlys “hydrate” a pizza in their super machine in like 10 seconds… while cooking with their pressure cooker? I know I do, and chuckle. Bah! Ok, back to work… Next, your weekly meal plan should also include at least one maximum of 5 Ingredients meal, something simple, healthy and yummy. This is where rice and beans come in for us. Rice, beans, salsa, avocado and done! Next, utilize your leftovers! Intentionally make more food so the hubby can have lunch the next day or two at work, or plan a leftover night to devour what you’ve made throughout the week. That’s less cooking for you! Lastly, plan for one night a week eating out. Trust me, if you don’t plan to eat out, odds are that that’s all you’ll do because you’ll need that break. But if it’s planned, you have something to look forward to, and you know that break is coming. Ok, lets meal plan!
One Month of Meals:
Breakfast and lunch are usually some variation of the same meals, everyday, 7 days a week. That way, I know exactly what to buy at the store, and know every morning what my kids are having for breakfast, and what I’m packing for school lunch. No frantic pantry search, just an easy morning (hopefully). Every now and then, I’ll pack something special in their school lunch, or buy muffins for breakfast (gasp!), but those times don’t happen often.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit and honey, and bowl of fresh fruit
*weekends only: cereal with almond milk OR homemade pancakes. My kiddos like the pumpkin seed, flax and granola cereal from Nature Valley at Costco. And I buy Coaches Oats from Costco as well. I buy 2 bags at a time to keep my pantry stocked for a while.
- Lunch: Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly/or honey, OR veggie sandwiches), veggies and fruit
I start my meal plan on Saturdays for a couple of reasons: I do my shopping on Fridays, and we get paid on Friday, so my grocery budget resets. It’s just easier for me to have meals start when the budget starts.
- Saturday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal *
- Sunday: Pecan “Meatballs” with Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Monday: Rice and Beans
- Tuesday : New Recipe Night!**
- Wednesday: Rice and Beans
- Thursday: Pressure Cooker/Crockpot Meal OR Freezer Meal
- Friday: Eat out!
*Freezer Meals, along with crockpot meals, should be a staple in any busy mom’s meal plan. They help relieve the stress of cooking, and are always a good option when you need that quick, go to healthy meal. I utilize frozen meals on nights I have to work. They work perfect for me when I’m tired or if the hubby is in charge of dinner. If you can, try and find meals that freeze and cook in your crockpot when you’re ready to use them. Here’s a good freezer meal resource. A lot of the meals that you already make on a regular basis; soups, pancakes, burgers, casseroles, even vegan “meatballs” can be made in advance and frozen for later use. I usually pick a meal or two I like to make, triple the recipe and make it for dinner one night, while freezing the other two portions. Or pick a weekend day and spend an hour or two prepping freezer meals. Whatever works best for you! Sure does help this busy mom to have freezer inventory!
**Tuesday night is the one night of the week that we don’t have anything going on; no sports, church, work, school activities and such. It’s the perfect night for me to try out a new recipe! And who knows, I may find a new family staple to add to the meal plan 😉 I don’t do this type of thing with every meal plan, but some days I need a change and to try something new.
I stick my meal plan on the fridge, right next to my chores list and under my grocery list. 😝🤗 they should all really be together, don’t you think??
I hope this helps all of the busy moms out there, or at least gives you an idea of how to start meal planning. It is so worth it to have meals planned out for those busy times in life!
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
Until Next time….