7 Easy Steps to Reducing Meal Planning Stress
Our family doesn’t get much time to actually sit and spend time together, unless it’s dinner time. It’s the last meal of the day and it’s when we can all discuss our days. Unfortunately it is also the most hectic meal for me as I’m sure other moms too. We’re either just getting off work, everyone’s coming through the door, extra circular activity meetings are planned as well as the random things that just seem to pop up when you least expect them. Here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner easy and even fun.
1. Schedule in advance.
I KNOW this is the most important part to keeping a clear head in the kitchen and our pocket-book closed. Unfortunately I stink at this because I always get these grand ideas of food and then never have the time nor patience to carry them out. That’s why I love eMeals. They completely let me skip this step as they send me pre made weekly meals, detailed grocery lists that depending on the store allow for an estimated cost of food for the week.
But if you don’t use eMeals, decide on the last day of the previous week what the menu will be for the following week. Create a shopping list, don’t leave anything off you think you have. Then go into the pantry and cross off what you do have or may need to pick up to replenish your on hand stock.
2. Bargins, bargins, and more bargins.
Clip the coupons and read the circulars that come out every week. You don’t have to get the newspaper, I don’t. But I have signed up for our grocery stores in the area to get eCirculars and see what’s happening. Safeway is my favorite for stocking up on meat especially when you sign up for their rewards card. Fred Meyer is my go-to for inexpensive organic selection and then there’s the local food co-op for all natural/organic choices. Oh plus Safeway is really stepping up the game on healthy organic items.
You can find something on every single isle that you just can’t find on the shelves of Wal-Mart yet. Back to my point, become aware of what the sales are and the dates. If you’re like me and shop at multiple places, plan the trip accordingly. I start at our food co-op, hit up Wal-Mart, then Safeway, then Fred’s, after that it’s homeward bound.
3. Search Online.
No matter how much we wish our family would just eat the same tired and true recipe, reality is they won’t. Variety is the key. If there are favorite dishes make them often but not so much you’ll notice the foods staying on the plate instead of being devoured. I like to use a 4-5 week rotation. Every 4 weeks I’ll re-make the food. You don’t have to go crazy like I try, stick to simple recipes until you have won the family over.
4. Leftover Night.
Don’t let the food go bad in your fridge, that’s money wasting. If you don’t pack it up for lunch the next day put it to use for dinner. A little of this, a little of that, a little of whatever that was can make a big meal to feed the family. And it’s easy. I like leftover nights for Saturday since it’s the night no one wants to really cook or clean and we just want to spend time watching movies.
5. Cook in advance.
I know this is the way to go but honestly I don’t ever do this mainly because I hate the lack of space in my kitchen and I just hate the kitchen here in general. BUT realistically I should be implementing the system. Cooking chicken ahead of time, cubing, shredding or slicing it up. Ground beef/turkey/deer/elk brown it up for nights we have spaghetti, tacos, chimichanga. If you want the family to help pick a Saturday or Sunday, if you prefer to do it alone then during the week when they’re gone. Once everything is cooled, store it in sealed containers ro casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it’s needed.
6. Prep Work!
Whether you cook in advance or not, prep work is a necessity. When you come home with your groceries prep as much as you can. This is our children’s favorite thing to do. They love peeling the ‘taters, cucumbers, and carrots. Helping to dice the onions and tomatoes. It’s a great family bonding time too. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.
7. Slow Cook away.
Know you have a busy day ahead or if you’re just not feeling up to par when you wake up and want to take it easy, put your slow cooker to work. I work my full time job at night this past month and the nights I work, even though I’m still home I can’t help the husband so I prep and do a slow cook meal for the family. It’s made it extremely easy for everyone and decreases the stress for the hubs when he comes home.
Meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. Even though the majority of the time it is. The entire family can help out. Plus it’s a great time to teach the young ones how to cook, be organizes, and learn life long skills.
What are your methods to making meal planning a breeze?
Evelyn grew up in a quiet town of Shaftesbury, hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors with her family. She has been an avid rifle hunter, chasing whitetail for more than 12 years and has harvested many deer through the years. Turkey hunting, grouse hunting, fishing, and camping are just some of the other outdoor activities she enjoys.