There is nothing like the stressful feeling of ending work and realizing that you have no idea what's for dinner. Then there is nothing more aggravating than finally deciding what you’re going to make for dinner, only to realize you don't have all the ingredients.
Running to the grocery store tired and hungry is never ever a good combination. Resulting in a really crabby mama and a 🛒 filled with items we may or may not need.
Yes, we all experience a variety of stress in everyday life. However, one way to minimize unnecessary stress is to plan meals in advance. Weeks get crazy, the less decisions needing to be made during the hectic week the better. Meal planning also saves money, fosters a healthy lifestyle, and frees up time daily.
I love the challenge of taking a problem or process breaking it down and simplifying it. With over 16 years focusing on continuous improvement to drive efficiencies across businesses now as a Professional Organizer, I get to bring these skills into a more personal space - people's homes.
Helping people clear the clutter and tweak their process so they can focus on what they love. Meal planning is a process, and I personally was committed to fix after struggling day after day to answer the question, “Mom, What’s for dinner?” Creating this process has relieved tons of day-to-day stress and makes our evenings so much more peaceful, and I’m hoping it can do the same for you.
First of all, I want to clarify the term “meal planning”. I feel like people often think that meal planning is only for the super duper organized, those that are uber health-conscious, or for those that are extraordinary cooks. Meal planning is just a process where you determine what you are going to eat ahead of time, therefore, saving you sanity, time, and money. In addition, it is also super likely to eliminate the last-minute trips to the drive-thru or cereal for dinner nights, which helps you to eat healthier. It's a process anyone can benefit from, especially those who have limited time and trying to feed a family.
Here are five tips to help minimize your stress around meal planning
1. List Your Meals
The very first step in the meal planning process is to write down the dinners you and your family like. It doesn't have to be fancy. Write down the main dish and sides. Also, if you order pizza, eat out at a restaurant, or grabbed take-out, be sure to write that down too if it’s something you would like to do again. Once you list your meals you really get a good idea of what it is you are eating and what you would like to do again. If you make a new recipe rate it and if it is worth repeating add to your list. Our goal is to have a nice long list of things we can plan to eat again in the future. This is also a good time to brainstorm, research, and talk to your family about things they would like to eat on a regular basis. To help you out I’ve included a few favorite dishes from my meal plan…
Taco Bar (walking and regular)
Tator-Tot Hot Dish
Spaghetti & Meatballs, Garlic Toast & Salad
Shrimp Scampi + Salad
Steak and Potatoes
Salmon with Hoisin Glaze + Asparagus
I suggested start planning for a week at a time. Adding this planning task and incorporating it into your weekly routine to make it stick. For my family, it is usually Sunday when we sit down look at the calendar to map out our Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner plans for the week and then get the goods. Since my girls are in school, we find it really helpful to understand their lunch situation. If the girls are bringing their lunch vs. eating at school this is something we need to plan for in advance to prevent the rush in the morning. (link here to read more about simplifying the school year.)
Get out your calendar and look at the actives you have for the week. Then get out a piece of paper to start your meal planning process. You don't need to get fancy here either and can use a blank piece of paper with the days listed across the top. However, if you want a bit more structure you can get a meal planning template here
Thinking of the week you want to plan for and note appointments, sporting events/practices, meetings, etc., that will affect the dinnertime routine. Sometimes dinner time looks different for different families. We have practices from 5-7pm so there are nights when we eat an early dinner @4pm right after school and then heat up leftovers at 7:30. You need a plan that works for your family.
We plan a week at a time-however, if you w
ant you can extent out a month as well.
Idea: Create a Theme We can make this process less of a chore by assigning a “theme” to each day. This is totally up to you, but I’ve found that it’s helped me narrow down what to eat on any given night. One way you could theme your days is to have “Taco Tuesdays”, " Waffle Wednesday" "Try It Thursdays, “Pizza Party Fridays”, etc. You will have the same type of meal every week on the same day. You don’t need to theme every single day if you don’t want to, it could just be a few dates. Again, this is just a way to help you narrow down your
decisions about what to eat and is optional.
3. Make Grocery List
Now that you have a plan of meals for the week. Take stock of what you currently have at home and make a list of anything else you need to get to make the week run smooth. We have Alexa and throughout the week as items go gone everyone just adds items to our grocery list. That way either my husband or I can go shopping and know what we need.
4. Get Groceries
Once you have a list of grocery items needed for the week you can go shopping or you can order online if that works best for you and your family. You need to do what works best for your family. This could also be a task you could have one of your children do. My12-year-old, has ordered our groceries before, and she actually has loved it. Kids are so willing and capable of helping. Again, once you have a list and a plan others can help execute.
5. Maintain, Practice, & Repeat
Congrats you now have meals planned for the week so be sure to keep this menu calendar somewhere that you and your family can see. We keep on our refrigerator door. I also look at it each evening just in case I need to pull something out of the freezer to defrost. The best thing about the menu calendar is you can replicate it and use it again if you’d like with some small tweaks. Also, sometimes we get sick of a particular dish or need to change things based on the season, so I review and edit the list of meals as needed but it’s not a huge duty.
Everyone in your household can be include in the meal planning process (kids included). They have great ideas too and it is easier to get their buy in when they participate in the process.
It takes practice so be patient.
New routines take time and consistency to stick.
Don't give up if you miss a week and get in a funk.
Get after it again the next.
I hope you learned something to help simplify your life today reading this blog post. If you still feel overwhelmed with the process or need additional advice or help feel free to connect via phone or text to # 612-387-2345 or e-mail me at email@example.com. I’d love to support you with your simplification journey by creating space for what matters most!
With Gratitude & Grace,
Founder + Chief Organizer