I’ve always said, I’d be a pretty awesome mom if I wasn’t required to feed and clothe my kids. To me, cooking and laundry are the tasks that require too much time and never end..but both are apparently required in order to parent in a semi-acceptable way.  At the same time, I am an addict to efficient processes. Several years back realized that the most simplistic strategy I could use for creating more time and less frustration as a parent was by implementing the idea of meal planning.

Regardless of if you are the working mama, or if you’re at home raising a small tribe, I know your day is filled with an endless list overwhelming tasks. And likely tonight there are still activities for you to take part in. But somewhere in between, your crew wants (and needs) to eat. 

How many nights do you just wing it?  Does the thought run through your mind ALL day, “What will we eat tonight? Do I need to go to the store? While I have that meat, it will never be thawed in time!” 

How many times does your mind revert back to the “What’s for supper?” dilemma during your day? To be honest, those scattered thoughts hoping to make a decision take up your precious time and distract you from your more productive tasks throughout the day. 

>>>Enter the simplistic idea of meal planning. <<<

I simply want you to write what you are having ahead of time, shop ahead of time and create a more efficient process. But if you are new or need a refresher, I’m listing below how to create the meal planning process in a short amount of time. The process will save you energy, frustration and money at the store. I’m dropping my meal planner here, which is designed to make your process a breeze.

Ten Tips For Easily Implemented Meal Planning

  1. Start with your family’s calendar. Fill in all the activities on your meal planner that are happening in the evenings that will change your meal time or evening schedule. Add any practices, games, meetings or events will be held on that day.
  2. Identify the busiest nights, and create the simplest meals for those evenings. Use every handy kitchen gadget, including crock pots, roasters, and instapots. I personally love using a crock pot on the nights my family is eating in “shifts,” for whatever reason.
  3. Consider picking a “standard meal night.” For example, my family loves Mexican. Therefore every single week, almost always on Wednesdays, we will have Mexican food. It remains simple and it is an evening I put no additional thought into and frankly my kids love it. Maybe pizza is your family’s favorite every Friday.
  4. Keep handy a running list of the meals your family likes the best. You can always add to it as you think about new ideas or remember old favorites you’ve forgotten. But, as you plan out the week sometimes your “mom brain” has forgotten all the meals your family likes, so this list will prove helpful.
  5. Consider your busiest times of the year and proactively plan for them.  Maybe as Christmas approaches, you can get some freezer meals put together to combat the bazillion activities that will happen in December. Others may find that their job dictates busy seasons and choose to prepare for that by having a “stockpile,” of frozen meals.  Those frozen meals create no mess and no stress during the seasons your schedule is squeezing you.
  6. Shoot for one grocery store trip per week. Many plan their meals using the current grocery store ad, saving extra by planning based on sales. If you can stick to one shopping trip, you’ll find yourself spending far less, than 5 or 6 trips a week. Not to mention, it’s much more time efficient to head there only one time. 
  7. Prep IF you can. Let’s be real, sometimes you get things ready beforehand and many times you don’t. While it is far more important to have your ingredients on hand, you can save a tremendous amount of mess if you wash, chop or thaw as many items as you can at one time. While I don’t always get things prepped, if I do, I include my 3 girls to do simple things that save me time. In addition, it creates skills that sometimes allow me to pass off a few dishes for them to make on their own.
  8. Plan for some new things. You might not venture out each week to try a new dish, but you might every other week. There is no way to find out how to expand your running list of meals, if you don’t implement a few new ideas from time to time. Integrate some new recipes on a consistent basis, just to expand the “meal option bank” in your household.
  9. DO NOT THROW YOUR PLANS AWAY. You can reuse meal plans as often as you want. Reuse them every month, every other week or every two months. While your activities may have changed for the week, your ideas and meals can easily be transferred over and often times the list of needed groceries might even be similar for that specific meal set. Maybe consider rotating some spring/summer plans and using different ones for fall/winter.
  10. Ask your family for ideas. Maybe every Tuesday, is a meal that one of your kids has picked. Maybe on Friday, your husband gets to chime in what he really likes or what he would be willing to cook (if he does).  But if your family has some say, you will likely have a far better response and possibly more help from your kids.

Meal planning truly isn’t difficult, but it will require consistency to make it a habit. But once it is a implemented habit, then it will undoubtedly produce better efficiency. (and worry less about “What’s for supper?) My hope is that this simple approach creates more time in your schedule, less frustrations at supper and fewer last minute trips to the store.

So let’s get this rolling! Print your Meal Planner, pick your weekly plan day and let’s simplify your week!