This is absolutely me.
Sometimes as Moms or maybe just as a humans, we want to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner and call it done. It seems that husbands and children who have been at work, school and sports practices all day tend to disagree. They look forward to coming home and eagerly asking “What’s for dinner?” and hearing you say something that makes their mouth water. No pressure.
It’s a daily struggle to be creative and crack the Davinci code of what everyone likes but is also healthy and will also meet the criteria of having a green vegetable, starch and protein. It’s deeply engrained in us Southerners to make a nice sit down dinner each and every night so you don’t get frowny faces from your people when you slap another frozen pizza in front of them. We practically live for the Ooh’s, Ahh’s and MMMMM’s and the request of a recipe from others. I wish I was joking.
So in my quest to satisfy my people each night I have stressed over meals for many a year. When I was working outside the home, I worked as a Field Rep and was in restaurants everyday so it was always easy for me to procure a great meal for myself during the day. Now being at home each day, I feed myself breakfast, lunch AND the dreaded dinner each day. Additionally, I feed two pets one of which is Raw Fed and requires some form of preparation at his two meals a day. That is to say, I feel as if I do a lot of feeding around here!
What has helped to save my sanity? Meal Planning. I’ll give you some reasons to meal plan and bet you’ll be sold on it too.
Spend Time to Save Time
A favorite adage in the restaurant industry has always been “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” I’m sure you’ve heard this too. I heard this at 15 years old and somehow it stuck. I find this to be immensely true when it comes to Motherhood. I now spent time each Friday making my meal plan. I actually have it on my calendar in my phone so that it alerts me to sit down and make my plan for the next week. Typically, it takes me about 30-40 minutes to choose my recipes and add them to my Excel spreadsheet. I choose some things I make frequently and a couple that I may have seen during the week to try for the first time. Something that used to drive Allan crazy was that I would make something tasty and then we’d never eat it again. This was basically due to the fact that I was just winging it each week! I could never remember what we ate the previous day much less week to week. So now I see it all in front of me on my document.
Reduced Grocery Bill
Before I began Meal Planning, I would grocery shop like this: Wander the store, grab some fruits, veggies and bagged salads that looked good… pick up some canned items and pre-packaged rices and mashed potatoes for good measure, and throw in a few different proteins into the cart. Hope that I’d be able to mix these all in some form each night to compose a decent dinner. This was my system- no system. This was also the source of my stress. Look at the pantry and thinking “Ok, I’ve got some pork chops, a bell pepper and box of potato flakes…. This is going to take some finesse.” Many days I’d have to get pretty creative. Other days I’d have to go back to the grocery to actually make a meal. This gets expensive! With my meal plan however, I know what I need for the week each Monday when I visit the grocery store. I don’t buy extra proteins or fresh items that will not be used in that week’s recipes. This saves me money and also valuable shelf space in my refrigerator and freezer. A win-win!
Favorites on Repeat
Before meal planning I’d make something delicious and completely forget about it. Now as I’m planning for the next week I’ll take a look at the meals I’ve just made and decide if I want to keep them around. Just this week I made a new recipe called Lemon Chicken and Rice Skillet which I was really looking forward to eating. Now looking back at it, I wouldn’t make it again. That meal fell totally flat so there’s no reason for me to repeat it and I can simply remove it from my recipe list. I love that. In it’s place, I’ve added Bisquick Pancakes and Turkey Bacon which is always a hit.
Know Your Family’s Schedule
There are two nights during the week that because of practices or other engagements we just won’t be home to eat a sit down meal. These night I always use my crock pot so my meal is waiting on me. I don’t want to have to actively cook as I’m trying to get out the door at 5pm for swim practice. With my meal plan, I plan for these night and purchase groceries accordingly. Remember “proper preparation…” and all that?
You don’t have to have an excel document to meal plan. I started by jotting down what I wanted to have for dinner week to week. I try to remain flexible as well because some nights things just come up or change. No problem, I’ll save that meal for the next week and add it right into the mix.
Here’s some of my people’s favorite recipes at the moment.
Slow Cooker BBQ Ranch Chicken Sandwiches — A busy night staple.
Unstuffed Cabbage Bowls — Makes plenty so I can eat it for lunch through the week as well!
Allan’s Favorite Carrot Cake — Made this for Easter, I halved the recipe so we wouldn’t eat a whole 9×13 cake ourselves.
Peach BBQ Chicken Breast- Mix 1 C BBQ Sauce and 1/4 Cup Peach preserves. Pour over 2-3 Chicken Breasts in a baking dish. Bake 30 min at 350° for delicious moist chicken.
I’m always looking for weeknight recipes so I hope you’ll share your favorites too!