am I right? Parenting is obviously worth it but I’ve found that being a mom makes it hard to accomplish tasks that seemed so simple pre-children. You know, like getting laundry done, finding time to exercise, washing my hair more than once a week (is that just me?) and getting healthy food on the table. Especially when I first had children, I was overwhelmed by the question of how to feed my family nourishing dinners while maintaining balance and keeping on top of all the other tasks that exhaust my day. The answer is meal planning! I used to hate meal planning but after much trial and error now I have a meal planning system that I can’t survive without. When I don’t plan meals and grocery shop accordingly I end up buying junk food, spending way too much money eating out, feeling unmotivated and stressing out every night around 5 pm when my kids start wondering aloud in hangry bellows, “What’s for dinner?” I think we can all agree that meal planning is a smart choice for our health, our wallets and our palettes but sometimes it is easy to forget that a little planning upfront saves us time and energy in the long run. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your long list of mothering to-do’s, start meal planning and it will save you time and money. Here are 6 basic meal planning tips to get you started and hopefully even make it a little fun.
- Keep a Recipe Collection: Gather recipes and menu ideas that your family will actually eat and keep them in one location. This helps you save time when planning your meals. You already have a collection that you can pull from.
- Dedicate 30 Minutes Once a Week: Set aside 30 minutes every Saturday or some time before the coming week to actually do your meal plan. I have learned if I do not schedule this in, it does not get done.
- Start with Simple Meal Plans: You can keep it simple to start: just list the days and meal names on a piece of paper. That’s it. You can even start by cooking one or two healthy meals each week and going out the rest of the week. Get a feel for what works for you.
- Create a Shopping List: On a separate piece of paper, write down all the ingredients that you will need to buy to make the recipes on your meal plan. For bonus points, you can categorize your ingredients into sections like produce, spices, meats, dairy, etc. This will make the actual shopping trip more efficient, especially if you have little sidekicks with you. For inspiration, feel free to use my example shopping list.
- Review Each Night: It helps to review each night what I’m planning to eat the next day.
- Repeat: When you start the process over again the next week be sure to evaluate what worked and didn’t work. Did you plan to make a recipe that was too time consuming for your schedule? Did you pick recipes that satisfied your family’s flavor palette? Make the next week more realistic and don’t feel bad for any meal planning failures, as Henry Ford said, “failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”