Meal Planning for the busy Family
We all know how daunting meal prepping sounds and can be. I get it, as a mom of 4, meal prepping/planning is the last thing I want to do. So I do my best to make it as simple as possible.
How many times during the week 6:00pm comes around and you look at your spouse and he looks back at you and you both question, “What the heck are we doing for dinner?” The baby is crying, two other kids are fighting and you have no time to whip up something quick, delicious and healthy… so what do you do?
Do you find yourself or your spouse running to grab fast food? Or maybe you run to the local grocery store to grab prepared fresh foods? Or do you quickly make the kids yet another peanut butter and jelly? Or what about that frozen pizza that’s for dinner Friday night that you end up cooking tonight?
Whatever your solution is… we’ve all been there. We have all faced this same question sometimes more often than not.
I don’t know about you but this is more exhausting to me than having a plan in place. I used to be this mom every single day! It still happens but not nearly as often as it used to and I am so thankful for that.
Everyone has a different dynamic and environment so what works for one may not work for all.
I’m here to provide you with 10 tips and guidance on how you can start meal planning for your family, take all the tips or none is totally up to you!
1. Select a day and time each week to go over your family’s calendar. Does anyone have a late meeting, doctors appointment, or after school activities? Break your calendar down one week at a time so you can decide what kind of meal would be easiest that day. On busy days choose something easy like a crockpot meal so when you all return home you can eat together fresh and warm. Plan your dinners around your activities, you wouldn’t want a 3 course fancy meal on a night one kid has girl scouts, the other has softball and you have class. That’s just silly! Look at your calendar! This one tip alone has been a game changer for our family.
2. Cycle through favorite meals everyone knows and loves. We try to do at least 1-2 chicken meals, Mexican on Tuesdays, venison 2 days a week and of course pizza on Fridays! Keep those recipes in a binder or recipe book near by so it doesn’t get lost in the clutter. Good idea to stock up on canned foods needed for those recipes so you can cycle through each meal 2x a month and not have to fuss or worry about not having the ingredients on hand.
3. Select 5 meals each week that you will cook and what days based on your calendar. We like to have at least Monday through Thursday covered so that we aren’t scrambling to figure out what to eat. Like I mentioned Friday’s are for Pizza J One day typically is a left over day usually Thursday so in reality we only plan for 3 days. Saturday’s and Sunday’s we are a little more relaxed.
4. Plan your shopping trip the day after you have your family meeting. Now that you’ve had your meeting, you’ve discussed what you’re going to have for dinner the following week, it’s time to go shopping. Make sure to look through those recipes in your binder to ensure you have all the ingredients you need to make dinner. BONUS if you have an alexa or google thingy you can create a grocery list, download it onto your phone and BOOM you’ll never leave it at home. No excuses!
5. Eat dinner together!!! I don’t know anything other than sitting down and eating dinner as a family. Dependent on the season of course, we typically eat dinner together around 6pm. It’s our favorite time of day because we get to have no distractions (phones do not come to our dinner table) and we just chat or laugh. We try to eat at the same time every day if we can so we have our evenings free to catch up on other things like bath time, packing lunches, homework etc.
6. Get into the habit of taking the meat out the night before or first thing in the am. Again you can use your devices to set a reminder to remind you to take it out.
7. Depending on your meals for that week and if it’s possible to cut all veggies or prepare foods a head of time, try to do it at the beginning of the week. This is not a habit we have in our currently because we try to stick to easier meals. It’s the season of life we’re in J
8. Cook a double batch to use later in the month. Great opportunity to save some time just double up your batch. Doing tacos? Great double the meat. Making chili in the crockpot? Fabulous double it up to save for another cold and busy winter day to reheat in the crockpot.
9. Get together with girl friends once a month and make 5 freezer crockpot meals. This is especially great for those days you didn’t properly plan well and you have a busy evening. You can just grab it from the freezer and plop it in the crockpot. Make it a girls day out and have a wine twist to it to party it up while making family freezer meals.
10. Plan one night a week to do take out, freezer meal or let the kids pick. Eating out is rare for us as we don’t like to spend money. As a family of 6 it can get very pricey!! We love the Trader Joe’s chicken & fried cauliflower rice as a quick meal in a pinch. Trader Joe’s is one of my go to grocery stores because they have so many goodies. I get lost in there!
Well now you have it! You have 10 tips to incorporate into your family meal planning so you can stop scrambling to find what the heck to it. You’ll gain more time to be present with your family, and be free from stress. Having a plan in place has reduced so much stress in our home and especially me as a stay at home mom. Since meals are on my plate (my husband really steps up often!) I was desperate to figure out a system that worked for us.
Feel free to use this template as a guide to help you with meal planning.