Meal planning is great. It saves you money, saves you time and saves you from added stress. The only problem is that it takes time and it requires you to be somewhat organized. This is great if you actually are organized and if you're good at managing your time but some of us aren't so gifted in those areas. I've tried full out meal planning and I've tried winging it. Both had there pros and cons. After a lot of trial and error, I think I've found a happy medium. Today I am going to share it with you.
So without further ado, I present to you...
Rule #1 Do not plan every single meal. If you eat 3 meals a day, that's 21 meals a week...and then you add in snacks? That's a LOT of planning. When I write out my meal "plan", I don't write anything down for breakfasts, lunches or snacks. We have a pool of favourites for each meal that we resuse throughout the week. I make sure to always have the ingredients on hand for those meals and then I can make whichever one we feel like on that day.
Rule #2. You can plan suppers but don't plaaaaan suppers. Give each day a theme and then work from there. For example: Monday is chicken, Tuesday is pasta, Wednesday is beef, Thursday is crockpot, Friday is pizza, Saturday is leftovers, Sunday is fancy dinner (because company is coming). So now you know that you're going to have chicken on Monday, you can make chicken themed meal with ingredients you have on hand. No need to buy special ingredients that only get used once and no need to worry about running out of things before you need them.
Rule #3: Keep a stash of tried and true favourite recipes (if you want to be super organized, sort them into your daily themes). We have a list of about thirty suppers that we really like and I make then often. I will throw a new recipe in there every week or so to spice things up but the bulk of our meals come from that 30 recipes.
Rule #4. Plan the night before. What's tomorrow's theme? Beef? Great. Take the beef out of the freezer. Look in your pantry, get inspired by what's there. Decide what tomorrow's dinner will be.
Rule #5. DO the prep work BEFORE supper time. I don't know about you but our household goes crazy around 4:00. Everyone is whiny and needy and it's really difficult to chop vegetables with a toddler hanging onto your leg. I do whatever prep work that I can right after lunch because my kids always entertain themselves well at that time. Then I can just throw things in a pot (or casserole dish, frying pan, etc.) at 4:30.
Rule #5. Shop smart. Know which ingredients you use most often and make sure to always have them. Be aware of what's in your pantry so you don't run out of staples.
Rule #6. Whenever possible, cook double batches then freeze some. This goes well with rule #7...
Rule #7. Always have a backup plan! Since you're reading the Slacker's Guide to Meal Planning, I'm going to assume you're like me. Which means that things are going to go terribly wrong at some point. And since you're like me, you will use these times as an excuse to eat out or order in which is both expensive and unhealthy. So always have a back up plan. Have a few super quick and easy recipes that you can whip up if you set your stir fry on fire. Or have some freezer meals set aside for when you forget to take meat out to thaw.
Rule #8. Reward yourself. If you're doing all the meal planning, preparing and cleaning, you've got a big job on your hands and you deserve a break! That could be eating out once or a month or making Saturday nights Mom's Night Off (make dad and the kids cook!). Whatever it looks like for you, make sure you treat yourself somehow (like I am right now with chocolate ice cream and peanut butter...yum!). You deserve it!
So there you have it. How to meal plan without investing too much of your precious time and effort. Because let's face it, we've got enough going on, we don't need to spend hours planning and making meals. Ain't nobody got time for that!
What are your tips for making meal planning/ preparing easier?