The meal planning trick that made it finally click for me
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I’m not a good meal planner. I really enjoy food and cooking so anytime I would plan out a week of meals there would inevitably come a day that I just didn’t feel like eating was on the menu.
I’m also pretty bad at eating leftovers but I’ve learned to embrace them as I’ve gotten older.
Food, eating, and specifically eating out, is where Justin and I differ pretty dramatically. I love the process of cooking and creating a meal, especially when we have friends over. Justin sometimes sees created stress or “wasted” time when we could just keep a meal simple with hot dogs and chips.
I’ve tapered back on my requirement that everything must be homemade when we have friends over, and even went with hot dogs and chips for some summertime pool parties, but I’ll always love the process of cooking and setting up a table for friends and family.
I get that from my mom. She’s the queen of hosting, makes delicious crowd-pleasing food, and no one can beat her table presentation.
So when it comes to basic family dinner during the week, I always default to cooking everything. It’s how I was raised, and I’m really grateful for that! But as a working mom who cannot always prep during nap time, that became a stressful process starting at about 4:30 everyday.
What doubled the stress for about a year is that 4:00-5:00p was Luke’s hardest hour of the day. He needed me and would cry and cry if I would try to do anything in the kitchen.
To this day, he’s the one way more likely to wander into the kitchen if I’m cooking or preparing any food to see what I’m doing and then always ask for fruit snacks.
As both boys have gotten older I’ll include them in the process which is really fun for all of us. If it’s something I can’t let them help with (if I’m at the stove, for example), I’ll give them each a bowl, some measuring cups or spoons, and pour a bit of flour or oats in their bowls for them to “cook”. It makes them feel involved but keeps them out of what I’m working on.
There are a lot of things that they do really help with! Cookies, jello, rinsing fruit, turning the handle on the fruit peeler/slicer, rolling out dough, etc. If you have kids and haven’t involved them yet but feel like they may be at an age where they can help, I encourage you do it!
So, back to meal planning. A lightbulb went off earlier this summer when I was trying to really wrap my mind around planning a week of meals that made the whole process seem much less daunting and actually a little bit more tailored to my needs.
Only plan 3 days of meals.
I realize that those 6 words may fall completely flat for you, but the instant I realized that I didn’t have to do the entire week I felt like I could handle the process.
So I started doing that and it worked! I would plan out Sunday-Wednesday meals, and one of them had to be leftovers. Usually I would try to make Monday’s dinner something that we could eat again on Tuesday because we host a bible study on Tuesday night and it’s better not to destroy the kitchen with cooking that day.
Then by about Tuesday, or sometimes Wednesday morning, I would plan the rest of the week’s meals. At that point I would either order the groceries online from our local grocery store, or just fit in a quick trip with the boys. It was always a smaller load because I had already gotten the larger weekly groceries on Sunday of that week.
Condensing the task down to 2 “bite sized” tasks led me to having so much more success with meal planning, and therefore lowered my stress level dramatically!
So if you, like me, have never been able to meal plan like you see the magicians do on Pinterest, try dividing the week in half and only tackling 3 days at a time.