I have a confession to make – I really, really, really don’t like cooking! (an odd way to start talking about meal planning, isn’t it? However, things will be clearer in a few moments, I promise! 😉 )
Even though this feeling is here to stay (it sure looks like that to me), I’ve found a system to make the whole process at least a little bit easier.
That’s what I’d like to talk about today – meal planning.
We all agree on this one – meal preparation is an inevitable part of life (a sad fact for me).
Therefore, you can imagine how I feel when it comes to this matter (hint: not so good).
There’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, EVERY DAY to deal with.
Along with the eternal questions – what will I make, do I have all the ingredients, would the kids like to eat it, how long does it take to prepare it (aka will I have any time left in a day to do something else?)?…
If you’re finding yourself in these words, too – I feel you, the struggle is real.
So what to do to make it (at least a little bit) easier?
A system that works
A quick fact – not many persons are planning meals in my surroundings (if any, that is).
At least not for longer than two days in advance (it mostly boils down to “What will I make for tomorrow?” – ha, ha… get it? boils? ahem… to continue!).
And since meal planning (the way I do it now) is not as common here, I was also one of those people – those who think about their meals only 2-3 days in advance.
For a long time it didn’t even occur to me there is a better system that helps to make mealtime so much easier (and less stressful).
Until the day I accidentally discovered it.
I was beginning to reach my tolerance limit (and my sanity) about it and was looking for a way to make it at least a bit simpler. (ok, maybe to cut some corners as well… but don’t tell to anyone, let’s keep it our secret! 😉 )
You can guess who I’ve turned to for help and guidance – the almighty internet, of course! 🙂
And there it was.
Meal planning (for real!).
It was such a game-changer for me!
It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
I got to say, I’m a hard nut to crack, and I STILL don’t like making meals.
However, for me, meal planning has made this household task to be quite bearable.
Meal planning advantages
What were the things which made me want to jump for joy?
Well, for a start, I didn’t have to think about the eternal question “What will I make” every day of the week.
That is such a relief, knowing I planned the meals in advance and all that is left is to prepare them.
(and to use the meals wisely. but, more on that later on)
It also frees up my time a bit.
I could easily spend around half an hour each day thinking about what to prepare, checking do I have the ingredients, trying to remember when was the last time I made the same dish (I don’t like to repeat the same meal more than I have to)…
Half an hour doesn’t sound much, but it’s 3.5 hours per week. Looks different now, huh?
Here’s another thing to be happy about.
Once you set it up, you can almost automate it, and never again spend the time on planning.
(yaaay to that! 🙂 – I’ll also come to this later on.)
Meal planning helps with having a balanced diet.
Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t like sweets?
With a meal plan, you can allow yourself (and the members of your family) to indulge in your favorite desserts while being sure everyone gets all the necessary nutrition at the end of the day.
Let’s not forget this – it can help you save money.
(if you want to manage your money better, have a look at bullet journal budget tracker and finance planner pages that can help you in it)
Because you know what you’ll cook, you can plan out grocery shopping the most effective way.
Meaning – you can buy in bulk, look for the best deals, and choose the time which suits you to do the shopping itself.
Oh, and one more thing!
This one is huge for me, as well.
If you involve your kids in meal planning, they will be more willing to help around when necessary, and also less picky when it’s time to eat (at least my kids behave that way! and I got to say, they have a strong character…).
How meal planning looks like in real life
My real life, at least. 🙂
This is what my meal planning looks like now, after searching and testing for the best system.
First off, I make a list of meals that are the “candidates” to be considered for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Because of the way I view it, every family has their own dishes which they like to eat (or don’t), so it doesn’t make sense to simply copy someone else’s meal plan in full.
For instance, for a long time, my kids didn’t eat sandwiches! Any! At all! Can you believe it?! Therefore, they weren’t on my menu.
(especially since I don’t like making two or more dishes for one meal. Makes sense?)
From there, I make a weekly meal plan for as many weeks as I possibly can (say, 6 at least).
That’s also the part where I include my kids.
I’ve created a separate, fun weekly meal planner especially for them – because I like to have two snacks sections for the kids to see (but I also like cute things, too 🙂 ).
I’ve printed it off and laminated it so it can be reusable and almost eternal.
With a dry-erase marker, my older child fills this weekly meal planner up, and the younger one gets to wipe off the meals once the day ends.
I also always plan (at least) one meal in a week to be left for – leftovers, because no matter how much or little I cook, somehow the remains of the food always show up – and I really don’t like to throw the food away.
So, once I have enough weekly plans to work with, I create a monthly meal plan by combining them.
Also, if it turns out I have the same dish on the menu again after a relatively short amount of time, I can decide to make a double portion and freeze half of it for later.
I simply love these little time-savers!
And we’re coming to the part where the “automatization” kicks in.
With enough weekly meal plans (say, around 10 at least) you can quickly create a meal plan for the entire year. 😮
Of course, with some little seasonal tweaks regarding the ingredients and/or different occasions/holidays.
You get the point!
Next, when I create a monthly meal plan, I fill out the grocery list for all the ingredients I’ll be needing.
And the last step is to make a shopping list.
(don’t forget to check for sales and/or special offers on items you anyhow have to buy!)
And that’s about it! All the steps that are necessary to send mealtime hassles into history!
Here’s to beating the mealtime-overwhelm! 😉