I remember the day my husband and I could wing a dinner. I’d call him as I left the office and ask the usual question, “What do you feel like having for dinner?” We’d brainstorm, make a decision, and then one of us would swing by the grocery if needed. I like to say that we “ate by the seat of our pants.” We never knew what would be going into our bellies until maybe 45 minutes or less before dinner time.
After becoming a mother, I got a swift slap in the face when I realized if there wasn’t some sort of meal plan in place, we’d be fasting for dinner every day. I quickly learned that being a mom is not easy. If you’re a work-in-an-office mom, a work-in-an-office mom, a stay-at-home-mom, mom of multiples, mom of a newborn, mom who is also a wife, a single mom, and any mom in between, at some point, you have felt the stress of having to get food on a plate for your family and yourself.
As a work-at-home and stay-at-home mom myself, I quite often found myself lost in the day with food being the last thing on my mind. My husband came home from work to find me with those droopy eyes, spit up covered pajamas from the night before, and crazy hair that hadn’t been washed in days (heck, maybe even weeks). He didn’t ask me the usual “What’s for dinner?” question. He took over dinners, and it was wonderful!
After days and weeks of having alternating meals of brussels and burgers to pizza to brussels and burgers and back to pizza, I knew I needed to try out the whole meal planning/prepping thing. I’m pretty sure I was going to literally explode from the gas the dairy and brussels were giving me.
Since I was fairly new to this whole world of meal planning and prepping, I immediately went to my most trusted friend who knows everything about everything — Pinterest. Pinterest gave me millions of meal prepping and planning ideas and even threw in some really cute, pre-made, weekly meal planning templates. (Oh Pinterest, you’re too good to me!)
After some trial and error, I found three meal planning methods that have been phenomenal for my family, and I cannot wait to share them with you! But first thing’s first. We gotta start with the basics.
- Plan the meal. Write out a basic meal plan outline for each day of the week. (Keep it simple! For example, burgers and roasted veggies, fajita chicken over lettuce, lemon salmon with asparagus, etc.) Those pre-made, weekly meal planning templates found on the interwebs are fun and can be a great visual!
- Make a grocery list. I learned it helps to actually put together a list after you’ve got your meal plan together. Believe it or not, I used to wing it at the grocery store. HA! Having a clear list of every single thing you need to get you through the week makes a huge difference and saves you time from having to make quick trips to the grocery store again during the week.
- Prep. When you get home, go ahead and chop those veggies that you’ll need throughout the week. Put them in baggies (whatever size you need), so that way all you have to do is dump ’em out when you need them or go on and cook ’em up. Also, go ahead and season that meat, or, heck, go on and grill out all those chicken breasts or burgers. This saves SO MUCH TIME! On those nights you come home and you’re too exhausted to cook, just pull out some of those veggies and that cooked meat. Pop them in the microwave and BAM! 45 seconds later, you’ve got dinner.
Meal Planning/Prepping Methods
Now, to the best of the best! Those THREE amazing meal planning/prepping methods that have done my family wonders!
- Freezer meals. Oh boy, these are the BEST! In a single hour, I can put together anywhere from 15 to 20 meals. You read that right! You can even get really crazy and make meals for every single day of the month in less than three hours. I have a Costco membership, so we buy in bulk and put together freezer meals one day a month. The night before we want a freezer meal (whether pre cooked or needs to be cooked) we put our bag of goods in the fridge to thaw out and then cook it up or heat it up the next day. No thought required — SO AWESOME! One of our family favorites is cranberry pork with cous cous.
- Crockpot meals. My crockpot, my dear beloved crockpot. I would be lost without this fabulous gadget. You literally dump stuff in it in the morning, and then come home with a fabulous hot meal ready for you . . . just begging you to eat it. Our family favorite crock pot meal is BBQ chicken with a side of green beans.
- Leftovers. Don’t underestimate the power of left overs! When putting meals together, I plan to make just a little extra of everything. Most days, I have leftovers for lunch or for a lazy dinner. Truthfully, I plan for three big meals during the week and make enough leftovers to last the rest of the week. Leftovers are a busy (or occasionally lazy) person’s best friend!
What meal planning and prepping methods have worked for your family? I’m always looking for ways to save time in the kitchen.