October 20, 2016
Eating right, saving money, more time with family, less time in the kitchen…these are all benefits of meal planning and prep cooking one day a week. I normally do this on Sunday morning since I do my grocery shopping on Saturday. Saturday mornings I give my kids breakfast and then sit down with a meal planning print out and get to work.
There are all kinds of free printables on the web that can make this part more fun. Just google “free meal planning printable” and pick one that speaks to you (I found the one pictured above here.) Another way to make meal planning easy and fun is to utilize an online calendar. I like to use my Google calendar for this and then save the links to any recipes I need for that specific day in the comments. It makes it so much easier to pull up when I need it!
The first important step in meal planning is a quick inventory of what you already have on hand. Do you have frozen drumsticks or ground meat in the freezer? Do you have a surplus of taco shells or tortillas? What about canned beans or fresh produce nearing the end of its ability to be considered “fresh”? All of these items should be taken into consideration before planning out your meals.
I try to serve the same types of foods on certain days of the week for the most part. This helps me keep at least some decisions easy. For example, Sunday is usually spaghetti and meatballs but that can easily be switched up to lasagna. We always do a version of Taco Tuesday. Some days I do veggie tacos, some days meat, other days both. Or I may have a rotisserie chicken or some leftover roast to use up so I will make enchiladas or burritos.
Wednesday I plan on Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese served with additional fresh veggies on the side. My kids love mac and cheese so I normally serve it up one day a week. Friday’s we do pizza. I like to make dough and have it ready to go in the freezer. The morning I plan on using it, I take it out and put it in a bowl on the stove covered with a kitchen towel. By the time I get home from work it is ready to go! Since we have moved and I still do not have my mixer, I have either been buying dough in a pan from the Italian bakery and then making my own at home or just buying frozen organic pizzas to throw in the oven.
Mondays and Thursdays are the days I wing it and either search the web for something to make or visit my Tried and True Pinterest board for inspiration. Once you have your inventory and your meal plan done, all you have to do is write your grocery list, get together your coupons and head out to the store.
Sunday mornings is when I get my prep work done. I always make freezer pancakes for the week and make the pizza dough for Friday (unless I bought frozen pizzas). I look at my planned meals and decide what would be okay to pre-chop or cook for the week. There is a great salmon patty recipe that we like and if they are on the menu I will make these and throw them in the freezer. If stir-fry is on my list I will pre-chop the veggies and meat and then put them in separate bags (please use food safety practices) in the fridge. If we do have stir fry it would be on a Monday so that works great. Just get home and toss everything in the pan with this amazing stir fry sauce.
The goal is to do as much as possible to cut down your prep time during the week. This way you can do your homework, help the kids with theirs, sit down together for a family dinner, and maybe even get a load of laundry in before heading to bed! Believe me, as a working mom of two who is also going to school, I know that life gets busy. Meal planning is just one of the ways I save time during the week to help me keep my sanity.
Not all weeks are perfect and I do not always feel like I have everything together, but staying organized and planning ahead makes a HUGE difference! Check out my post here about how I make our mornings run smoothly and get us out the door on time. Do you have any meal planning tips? Please share in the comments below!
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