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- Do your kids come home from school and soon start asking what is for dinner? Do you stare at them blankly, because you have not given it any thought?
- Do you find yourself at dinnertime staring at the refrigerator and/or pantry wondering what you will cook for dinner?
- Do you have your main course prepared for dinner and are frantically trying to find something to serve with it?
- Do you find yourself preparing to grocery shop wondering what you should purchase or worse yet at the grocery store and wondering?
- Do you over purchase groceries, because you have no idea what you will need for the week spending more money than you need to?
- Do you find yourself preparing the same foods over and over again?
- Are you eating way too much take out and/or prepackaged foods?
- Are you wasting food, because you have purchased more than you need?
- Does dinnertime put you in a panic and stress you out?
- Is dinnertime your least favorite time of the day?
I have been there and experienced most of these. So why bring up this stressful time of day. I have found a way to make it easier and much more enjoyable by meal planning and wanted to share it with you.
Meal planning and I have a love-hate relationship. I have tried it a few times over the years and liked it, but somehow never kept up with it. I found myself at 5pm every night frantically trying to figure out what I was going to feed my family for dinner (they vetoed a bowl of cereal). On a few rare occasions I was lucky and had at least thought a little ahead and had some meat thawing. We did a lot of grilled meats, but the question remained…what to serve with the meat. I decided to give meal planning another shot.
I am not big on reinventing something if someone is already doing it and it works great for us, but I was not able to find meal plans that work for us. Most meal plans I found just give the main course or they do not include food my family eats. One dish meals are a no-no in our household. I get, “is this all”. I guess it’s those midwestern genes in them that require a full meal of meat and potatoes. Our house is divided on casseroles: some love and some dislike and mama dislikes canned cream of yuk soup that makes its way into many casseroles.
As I was researching meal plans, I was also looking for meal planning worksheets. Most worksheets I found included all three meals. With the exception of the weekends we all do something different for lunch and breakfasts, so at this point I am not focusing on those meals. Other worksheets listed only the main course, which defeated part of my purpose (to have a well-rounded meal planned with sides). In one of my failed attempts at meal planning, I had a meal planning worksheet that really worked for me. I am not sure where I found it and could not find it again, so I recreated what I remember it being and what I felt would work for us. I write everything in pencil and then revise it as the week goes on. I save the worksheets in a binder to use as reference in creating new menus; no use in reinventing the wheel.
So, what makes me think I will not fail again.
- My husband has a better work schedule. Up until about nine months ago, my husband worked a job that required many, many erratic and long hours. At one point I had three kids under five with no extended family nearby. We were living in survival mode at that point. I was just trying to get through each day the best I could; there was little planning ahead.
- I am compiling all my recipes in one neat and organized spot. I found a recipe card template on pinterest to use in Microsoft Word and I ordered a recipe book (it’s a work in progress right now…I will share at a later date). My pinterest food board was a mess. I was putting everything from meatballs to salads to cupcakes under one board titled food. I have since moved items around to make my recipes easier to find and access. Also I picked up some new cookbooks for new and fresh inspiration.
- I prepare for my grocery shopping trips and often go by myself in the evenings while my husband stays at home with the kids; a leisure I did not have when he was working his other job.
- Our children are preschool and school age. They are past the stage in which they are completely dependent on me for all their needs. They are toilet trained, can feed themselves, and help with dressing themselves. Thus freeing up some of my time.
- I have already made it longer than I did on any of my past failed attempts.
Meal planning takes some time and organization, but it will save you a lot of stress, wasted food, and money while offering variety in your meals.
Here’s a copy of my MEAL PLAN WORKSHEET to help you get started.
It includes the main dish and up to 3 sides as well as a column for whatever else you might want to add. I use this column to notate activities that may affect dinnertime or where I found a new recipe.
Stop by on Saturdays for my weekly meal plan.