Lots and lots of cooking! The constant revisions to recipes and quantities, the changing number of guests and gatherings... Ugh! Is it all worth the stress?
Yes! A bit of guidance, intention, and a working plan goes a long way in alleviating the daunting feelings that often come with the holidays and busy cooking season. Will a plan keep family and friends from driving you crazy? No, but it will let you enjoy your hard work and delicious cooking with them! Let’s set the foundation on which you can plan and build your festivities.
The values and benefits from making a plan:
Aids in healthier habits✔
With hundreds of meals planned and implemented within our household and having cooked for a husband, three sons, family, and friends over the years, I have, through trial and error, come up with a plan and system that has kept us fed, on budget, and me from pulling out my hair. If you are ready to create a plan and put it into action, let’s do this!
Start with establishing a consistent day and time for grocery shopping. Deciding on a weekly set time to tackle this task will help with establishing routines and systems to make the other components flow.
In our home, Saturday afternoon is the time to plan meals and shop for groceries. Yours may be Sunday afternoons or Friday mornings. Find the time and day that works for you and run with that.
Below are the steps involved to simplify the process. Click to download the Two week meal plan and grocery list I use to plan and implement our meals.
1. Create a dinner / lunch meal plan for the next 2 weeks.
Start by looking at your calendars and asking yourself and family members on what days are meals needed? Maybe on Fridays the kids go to grandma’s house and you and your spouse can go out to dinner. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sara has soccer practice and it would just be easier to pick up a pizza on one of those nights, while the other would be a great day to do a crock-pot meal. On Wednesday, there is a school fundraiser being held at a local restaurant. Place those on your meal planning calendar as well.
I also suggest a similar tactic for lunch prep. Do you or your spouse take lunch to work everyday or just 2 days? Do you have the kids purchase a school lunch everyday or only a couple of days a week? If they do not get a hot lunch everyday, have the kids look at the school calendar and pick two or more hot lunches a week so you can mark those on the meal planning schedule.
Needing new recipe ideas below is one of my go to strategies.
Pick out two new recipes per meal plan. Type an ingredient that you love into your phone or laptop. There are a 101+ recipes to choose from or you can visit your local library and check out a few cookbooks. Also, consider crock-pot cooking. It is such a treat to toss the ingredients in the pot in the morning and be greeted with the delicious smells that say “Dinner is ready!” when you get home in the evening. Whichever route you go with, do write the page number or website recipe name on your plan so it is easy to find when it is time to cook and/or make your shopping list.
Next, schedule the meals you are going to make for certain days of the week. Also indicate on the no-cook days what happens instead of cooking. For example, on Tuesday, picking up Papa Murphy’s Pizza; on Friday, eating out. This list does not have to be complicated. It is not set in stone, but just serves as a guide. I have, oftentimes, put a meal on one week and switched with one on another day because I was too tired to cook it. Or there may be last-minute invitations to eat out. That uncooked meal will then be moved up and put on the next rotation, since you already have all the ingredients ready to cook.
Let the planning of each meal be simple and consistent. How much you fill in really depends on your family and your season of life. In our household, I no longer have kids who have lunch at home - only ones who need to take their lunch to school/work. So, I just stock up on sandwich ingredients, fruits, snacks, and chips that are ready to grab and go. In the same way, breakfast is easily accessible and available in the same variety of options each week (unless it’s a special occasion or weekend). If you are preparing something different each day for breakfast and lunch, write it in the plan.
I highly recommend preparing breakfast and lunches the night before. Even if you are tired in the evening, take the extra time to make the sandwiches. Set out the coffee cups and set the coffee machine on a timer. I love a good protein drink for breakfast, so I often build it the night before and have it in the refrigerator ready to blend in the morning. One of my favorite things is getting ready for work and entering a clean kitchen with lunch ready to go. It gives me extra time to sit and get my thoughts ready for the busy day ahead.
2. Complete your grocery list
Go through the pantry, cupboards and refrigerator to see exactly what is needed. Look at your staples, the ingredients needed to cook the recipes you are going to prepare. Include snacks on your list to prevent the family from being “hangry” in between meal times. Keep an established snack station in the pantry or cupboard so the family can grab and go.
3. Shop for groceries
I find it more cost efficient to shop only once every two weeks, with an intentional list. This keeps me on budget as well as having fewer trips to the store. One of my least favorite chores is grocery shopping. Do we run out of staples, like milk? Yes, we do. But I would much rather run in for 2 gallons of milk than spend 1-2 hours each week at the store. Shopping for 2 weeks may not work for your family but I do suggest at least 7 days at a time.
Implementing a routine with your grocery shopping and meal planning process will then become a weekly habit or reset. It all begins with making a plan, but no plan works until you put that into action, with intention. Happy meal planning, cooking, and the best part: eating!
Organizing and Smiling,