Parenting

Meal Planning Solutions We Can’t Live Without

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There are two words that make every homemaker quake in her slippers—two small words that either make or break the way you look at your kitchen everyday: Meal Planning.

Two distinct teams seem to play on this field. You either love meal planning, or you hate it. I love it. I really love it. I’m the homemaker that goes to the grocery store for fun. We go to Whole Foods on a date night sometimes and just walk the aisles (I’m a cheap date). But I haven’t always enjoyed it this much.

There were the early years, making one too many pot roasts for my new hubby, scouring recipe books so that I made something new each night. Then came the years with our firstborn, Jonah. We lived in Boston, far from family, so I had time on my hands to research the fruits and vegetables that would make him grow into an intelligent and bright human, who would love exotic fruits and enjoy eating his veggies. I was in love with the idea of feeding him “whole” foods, and serving him a balanced gourmet diet that would jumpstart his mental growth. I was one with the organic section of Market Basket, not because I had a reason to be, just because I thought that was what you were supposed to do when you had a baby.

Enter child two, Annie. This girl would eat anything, and a lot of it. I was still planning well-rounded meals and avoiding repeating many recipes in a month—but because our firstborn had developed a distaste for what we ate, I was making him something separate. I was like a short order cook. What was happening?!

This didn’t last long; we realized something had to change. That something was my Meal Planning.

Most inventions are born of necessity, and soon I discovered the joy of having a list of meals and a corresponding grocery list. If I stuck to the list, I stayed within my budget. And if I had money left over at the end of the month, we could buy or do something fun. Nowadays it’s easy to find meals that are tasty enough for any diet. Pinterest, Facebook, and a good ole’ fashioned Google search yields unlimited options.

But my favorite way to plan is really simple: make one two-week menu, and then repeat it. Once you’ve done this you can fine-tune things and name specific days of the week after special meals. In our home we have Taco Tuesday, Pasta Thursday, and Pizza Friday—every week! It’s a beautiful thing. The kids look forward to it, and they help me make the pizza dough and choose the toppings. We know we can always invite people over for dinner, because we have a plan. And we actually spend less money eating out because we have that plan and are less likely to cheat on a home cooked meal when all the well thought-out ingredients are already in the fridge.

Here’s an example of our two week rotation:

Sunday: Smoked Pork Roast, Fried Potatoes, and Salad

Monday: Grilled Greek Chicken, Rice and Zucchini Saute

Tuesday: Tacos with Tortilla Chips

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Pasta with Sauce and Garlic Bread

Friday: Homemade Pizza and Salad

Saturday: Chinese Chicken StirFry and Rice

Sunday: BBQ Pork Chops, Green Beans, and Salad

Monday: Garlic Ginger Chicken and Rice

Tuesday: Tacos with Tortilla Chips

Wednesday: Cowboy Taco Chili and Cornbread

Thursday: Pasta with Sauce and Garlic Bread

Friday: Pizza and Salad

Saturday: Leftovers

Notice how this menu makes it easier to buy in bulk, because you are repeating recipes. And here’s a bonus tip: the chicken recipes and the chili freeze beautifully, making prep a snap. Dinner practically makes itself.

So say goodbye to frustrating grocery lists, cranky budgets, and empty cupboards. Find enjoyment in dinner again, and allow yourself some time to sit down at the table with the family (and food) you love.

 Image via Shutterstock