Meal Planning – how and what to do.
Carve out a day that works best for your family and make it a habit, this way it becomes much more normal and you can plan into your schedule. Our main grocery shopping day falls on the weekend, Saturday or Sunday depending on what we have going on. We really enjoy cooking on Sunday afternoon while the kids nap so would prefer to shop on Saturday so we have time to prep anything and cook on Sunday. Once you get this down, it only takes 15-20 mins start to finish with prepping and creating your list.
Menu planning was the part that always overwhelmed me, where to even begin. I love looking through cook books and finding inspiration but do what works for you. I have a few cook books that I keep on hand to flip through but in all honesty, we eat the same meals time and time again. I do follow a few food bloggers, which is helpful when I need something new to try. We are creatures of habit and we always have meals that are on constant rotation for our family. We have easy meals that we can pull together quickly in a pinch and then plan a few meals throughout the week to make in bulk and eat left overs. This has been one of the hardest challenges for us as family to keep constant, due to the planning and ever-changing schedules. Some weeks are great and others are…..not so great. Last week was a complete fail, so this week we are back on our game and focused.
This weekend I felt like we hit our meal planning out of the park – it was one of those weeks that everything came together and makes the start of the week less stressful! Sunday morning, we got up and had a lazy morning as a family, PJ’s, lots of coffee and cook books. The kids love flipping through cook books, which is fun to hear what they want to eat, get the whole family involved it is fun.
We have found that we don’t eat left overs for more than 2 meals, this may sound odd, but if we make too much food it goes to waste. When we sit down to plan out the week, we try to make 2 to 3 meals with lunches and breakfast as the weekly menu. This may sound like a lot but think about what your family likes to eat and what can be added to a weekly menu which makes it much easier. Generally, my husband and I have a meeting one night a week, so we usually do something easy for the kids (Pizza or Macaroni & Cheese), this helps in the meal prep to know you have some meals up your sleeve or in the freezer. This week we planned three meals, lunches and breakfast for the week, we have family coming in town this weekend so I am only planning for a partial week (Sunday through Thursday). We will shop again Thursday after work for the weekend, we always tend to eat out on Friday night. This mom is tired by Friday, no matter what the week is.
Meal #1 – Beef Stroganoff, served over noodles with a side of broccoli
Meal #2 – Macaroni and Cheese with a side of peas and fruit
Meal #3 – Mexican Chopped Salad and Tamales (Trader Joe’s favorites)
Meal #4 – Chicken Breast Medallions with Coconut Red Curry Sauce served with Cauliflower Rice and a side of broccoli (didn’t plan but picked up at Trader Joe’s, because it was delicious and easy) Frozen, so if we don’t eat this week, it will be eaten shortly.
Lunches – the kids are eating Peanut butter sandwiches every day, fruit, veggies and cheese sticks. Super easy and no complaints!
Breakfast – fruit and whole wheat banana bread
After planning out the meals, I then make sure we have everything we need in the pantry or fridge. We have been on the road off and on, so our pantry and fridge were out of control. I did a deep clean before we went to the store, which was so helpful in knowing what I needed to restock, then unpacking the groceries is a breeze!
I keep our grocery list on my phone notes app, this is super helpful as I can add anything when I think of it and I always have my phone with me. The other wonderful benefit of creating a list is you can send it as well, if my husband is going to the store I just text him the list that was created and he can pick up the list. Divide and conquer is our theory a lot! Win, Win, Win!
Grocery Shopping – planning ahead…. Saves time, money, and headaches.
Each week, we buy milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit, and veggies.
On hand staples we keep in the fridge/freezer:
- Hummus and veggies (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots)
- Fresh Fruit – the kids eat at every meal and for snacks
- Tortillas to make quesadillas or burritos depending on the week
- Frozen Pizzas – this is a must have and the kids request at least once a week, our favorites are from Trader Joe’s right now and the kids love them!
Staples we keep in the pantry:
- Canned veggies – peas, green beans, black beans
- Canned fruit – peaches, pears, mandarin orange slices
- Snacks – pretzels, apple sauce, raisins, Craisins, gold fish, and crackers of some type
Eating out – out with kids. (TAKE OUT)
We go through stages where we eat out at restaurants, right now we are not eating out. 5 year old is great most of the time, but our 2 year old is a force to be reckoned with. I keep telling myself, “This will pass, I know it will.” We recently went out to lunch with my husbands grandparents. It was great until the kids had a MELT DOWN over a bowl of Macaroni and Cheese, things happen and Thomas family is very gracious with the kids, thank goodness. But we are at the stage where take out is less stressful for us.
My best advice when taking kids out is go to a loud restaurant, if your kids get loud, it will not bother most people. When you sit down and place your drink order, it is always best to order the kids food, this helps with the kids focus. Feed them and they will be distracted and focused for a bit.
We were great this summer about going to church and then going to a fun brunch place with the kids. That ended after our 2 year old was running around the restaurant screaming. Not our best moment, but we do know our limits, so no more brunch for a while with the kids!
Find great take out places and enjoy them, if you are in the same season of life that we are in embrace it and know it will not be forever. You will soon have teenagers complaining at brunch!
Meals for our family have become less of a chore for us, knowing what works for our family in a pinch we can throw together a meal that satisfies kids tastes and is nutritious.
Hope you are having a great week! Let me know what tips and tricks you have for making meal planning easier for your life.!