“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Mom, when is supper going to be ready?”
After a long day at work…or even just a long day of tending to the kiddos, sometimes cooking dinner seems like a daunting task.
You’re tired. You’re mentally drained…and you still have to get the kids bathed and in their PJs AFTER dinner, too (not to mention tackling that ever-growing pile of laundry).
But those little faces are peering up at you saying, “Feed me!”
You feel a little guilty about calling in for Chinese take-out two nights in a row…all that sodium…
Ordering pizza seems like an easy solution, but how many nights can you get away with filling your kids with just cheese and pepperoni instead of something more nutritious?
Those growing bodies need fuel!
All those last-minute to-go orders can defeat your goals to create a healthy balance to your family’s diet.
“Jen! Can’t my fridge just be magically full of yummy, nutritious meals that are ready to go?!?!”
I hear ya, mama…and I have an answer for you.
YES!!! Yes, it can! Setting aside just a few hours to bang out a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, AND snacks is totally possible.
Meal-planning is easier than you think…and can take the stress out of dinner time (which is arguably the biggest benefit), but the advantages are endless…
Giving thought ahead of time enables you to find sneaky veggie recipes and new, delicious ways to try different healthy recipes (like this Easy Mexican Casserole that was a big hit with my kids).
Using store flyers and planning around what’s on sale (and using coupons if you’re a clipper!) can save big bucks…not to mention you’re not throwing money out the door by eating out.
Cook and Run!
The crockpot is your best friend (and so is this Barbecue Pulled Chicken that cooks all day in the crock while you are at Billy’s soccer game). You can also reuse leftovers and other staples to cut down on your prep time and get a nutritious filling dinner on the table pronto.
Less grocery store chaos!
I don’t know about you, but heading to the grocery store 3 or 4 times a week wears me out! Planning out my meals limits this shopping mess to once a week or less! Check to see if your local grocery store offers pick up or delivery and skip the lines altogether!
The last thing busy parents need before the night of the science fair is to accidentally prepare a “simple” recipe that actually takes hours! Stave off long nights and unexpectedly complicated recipe snafus by planning meals in advance.
“That’s great, Jen…but this seems like a lot of work…”
Don’t worry, sister…I got you covered.
Like I always say, we are on this journey of motherhood together and I am here to help you out!
Let me share with you my tried and true tricks to help me keep my sanity and maintain the calm at supper time…
To start, here are resources I use to take the stress out of planning meals for the week, including a weekly template to get me started!
Allow flexibility in your plan
First and foremost, you are already superhuman, just by being a mama…
There is no need to strive for Martha Stewart greatness (I know I’m not a Pinterest Princess, by any means)…
When I talk to other moms about meal-planning, I find their biggest struggle is not allowing for flexibility and spontaneity…because, after all, life happens while you plan, am I right?
With hectic sports schedules, school and work, nothing is set in stone.
Some mornings you may only have time for a speedy smoothie, rushing out of the door at the last minute to school…
Others mornings, the breakfast gods may be on your side giving you time to make banana pancakes and still leave the house 10 minutes early.
The important thing is to be realistic and flexible, which is why I recommend only meal plan your dinners.
By keeping the breakfast, lunch, and snacks on a simple rotation of normal grocery ingredients, you can focus on only 7 meals to plan a week and make them extra special or extra fast!
See…this sounds easy already, doesn’t it? 21 meals down to 7…
What is the family schedule looking like this week?
What do you have going on this week?
Is your husband traveling or working late? Do all of the kids have an activity on Thursday night? Do you need to eat on the go to make it to Sara’s basketball game?
Knowing your family’s schedule helps you to create a functional plan for how to cook for the week.
For example, Tuesdays, when all of my kids have activities, I always have something quick and easy, like my Leftover Chicken Pasta recipe.
Make those leftovers go-to winners for a fast supper on a busy night.
Make your pantry work for you
I bet you already have some staples on hand to whip up something easy. You might just need a handful of fresh ingredients to top it off.
A well-stocked pantry (and freezer) can save supper more times than you think. Here is my list of items to always keep on hand for fast meal prep!
Make a list, check it twice
Now that you have this awesomely stocked pantry, jot down any staple ingredients on your shopping list as soon as you run out of them. When it’s time to plan your entire list, you’re already one step ahead of the game!
Without making a list, you are more likely to forget key ingredients, veer from the planned menu and binge shop on foods, especially snacks, that won’t make sense for your week or wallet.
What are the family favorites?
Each person in the family has their favorite meal. Keep track of them on this simple Our Favorite Meal tracker.
Soon enough, you will have a list of 10-15 meals that can be put in the rotation.
Healthy options that you know the kids will enjoy!
Yes, you have some family favorites that you can easily prepare, but remember that variety is the spice of life!
Eating the same ol’ thing all the time can be a drag…
Trying out new dishes keeps the family engaged and connected at the dinner table, plus opens the foodie pallets of your kiddos.
Buying ingredients that can be used a few different ways goes a long way towards mastering the meal plan.
Ingredients like chicken, garlic, onions, broccoli and rice are staples that can be transformed from Asian to Mexican, without skipping a beat (for example, Vegetables with Quinoa “Fried Rice” vs. Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables).
Weekend Meal Prep Warrior
Using this weekly meal plan template, your dinners are planned and you are ready to prep!
Send the kiddos to the park with Dad or off to Grandma’s for a few hours, so you can set your week up for success!
The key is not to prep whole meals, but the components that go into meals, that you can turn around each day and use.
Marinating proteins, pre-washing, and cutting veggies and getting big pots of ready to grab and go rice, will make whipping up nightly dinners a walk in the park.
To make it that much easier, here are some of the tools and gadgets I use, that make meal prep even faster (all found on Amazon)!
Whether you are meal prepping to give healthier dinner options to your family or to save a few bucks, I hope that these tips and guidelines prove as useful to you as they have for me.
Don’t forget to get your meal planning guide to make it even easier and remove the stress!
If you have any questions or need additional help, please reach out to me.
Motherhood is a journey and we are all in this together…