Meal Planning 101

It’s back to school time! an exclamation that brings both joy and dread to families all over the world. As soon as the Staples commercials began, I started millirocking. Finally my kids were going to be up and out the house. I walked around my house screaming “Farewell high electric bill, deuces savaged empty refrigerator” when it hit me, this return to school also meant bye bye laid back times for me as well, and hello strict planned schedules. And so the work began.

I’m a planner so it wasn’t hard to snap back, so when people asked how I “do it all” instead of giving my normal hope and prayer response I wrote it down to share. Here is how part I on how I manage a fit life fueled with awesome healthy meals all week ling, with little stress.

THE PLAN
I like order, so this step is crucial. Like most parents I have a steady rotation of recipes, but every week I try to add something new and fresh. Adding new recipes serve two purposes

  1. Escaping the boredom that comes with a static menu
  2. Exposing the kids (and sometimes my husband) to new flavors and cuisines.

The planning begins at this point. On Wednesday (usually during my commute) I scour my favorite IG chef’s, cooking sites and occasionally a magazine. This gives me time to prepare a list of ingredients I don’t already have for the special meal. One of my favorites is American Test Kitchen, I make sure to grab their free recipe each week for future use.

THE LIST:
Thursday nights, I do three things: Prep for my podcast, watch Queen of The South and review my lists and plan our menu for the next week. Typically I have two list one for the ingredients I need, and my regular grocery needs. Last step is to go through the sales and create the menue. With both #BabyGiants at school, I’ve added a fast- on-the go breakfast to the list to make sure they have something healthy but fast so we can get out the door quickly:

Pro-tip: Baked french toast or baked pancakes loaded with fruit is an awesome on the go. Get the recipes here.

THE SHOPPING:
Readers of the blog and my newsletter know I believe in budgets and shopping in season. If you’re able the best bet is to visit as many places as you can that fit into your budget. Eating in season saves cash because the fruits and veggies are at the peak of their season, cost less to farmers and distributors and food tastes betters. I make three stops normally, BJ’s for bulk items, the grocery store and the local farm. Even though the farm has watermelon all year long, I do not buy if after September because it’s out of season and the price is higher (also it’s usually not as tasty).

Pro-Tip: Not sure what’s in season, visit our friends over at Eat The Season USA.

THE PREPARATION:
Now that all of the groceries are in the house, I work on the protein. I separate them based on my recipes for the week, seasoning and storing in Ziploc bags with the days on them. Proteins like fish, I leave until the day of, but poultry gets seasoned and prepared for the early part of the week. Next step is veggie preparation. During this time of year we eat a lot of root vegetables so I involve the #Baby Giants in cleaning and peeling them.

PRO-TIP This kills two birds with one stone, dinner prep and keeping the kids busy.

The Cooking

The final step for me is cooking. I like to prepare at least two of the meals for the week on Sunday. On most Sunday afternoons I can have dinners prepared or up to three nights. This allows me some freedom if something happens during the commute but also makes it easier for us to stay on schedule. My husband usually put the meal for the in the oven on low and we can eat once I get in from work.

Another benefit to early preparation is saving money. Sunday dinner, easily becomes Monday lunch, the same goes for Monday dinner and Tuesday lunch. If there are leftovers, say from a roast chicken I will shred it and add to a salad for Wednesday. The kids love it too, because they get to “battle the chicken” with forks. There’s no lose here.

The biggest win (yes, even more than saving money) is doing all this work early allows me quality time with my family. I am less stressed when there is homework to be done and I can usually get a hot shower and in bed at a reasonable time.

What are some of your save time tips? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

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